STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Folks around Erath County know rodeo. They live it.
But for rodeo’s greatest players, this year’s Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo is an even bigger deal. With the change in dates to the final weekend of the 2012 regular season, Stephenville will be a hot spot for those cowboys and cowgirls hoping to clinch a spot in ProRodeo’s championship events.
The rodeo is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at Lone Star Arena, and each performance will feature many of the big names in the sport fighting for a shot at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, held in December in Las Vegas.
But there’s just as important of a competition scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 28, when the top 51 steer ropers in the country battle for a top 15 spot in the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping, set for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2-3 at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie, Okla.
“We’ve added $5,000 in steer roping,” said Chad Decker, chairman of the volunteer rodeo committee that produces the annual event, indicating the amount of money the rodeo adds to entry fees to make up the total purse. “It’s a pretty tight race to get into the top 15 in steer roping. I’m a PRCA steer roper. I know what the guys like, and I tried to pattern it after that. I also wanted it to be a difference-maker.”
Marty Jones is a 14-time steer roping finals qualifier from Hobbs, N.M. He’s 17th in the world standings, so he needs to make a move in the final three events of his 2012 season in Amarillo, Texas, this week and in Anadarko, Okla., and Stephenville next week.
“It really depends on where you are sitting in the standings,” Jones said regarding the big-money roping on the final weekend of the season. “If you’re in (the top 15) at that time, there’s a disadvantage to it, because somebody can come from way back and win lots of money.
“If you’re out (of the top 15), one run makes all the difference. It could be the last steer, and it could be a difference-turner for you.”
That’s a big reason so many great ropers will be at Lone Star Arena.
“I think the committee has really stepped up and done an outstanding job of making the steer roping so important and valuable to the contestants,” said Pete Carr, owner of Carr Pro Rodeo, the livestock producer in Stephenville. “I think the fans especially like to come out and see all the top cowboys and legends in the sport during The Cowboy Capital of the World Rodeo. To be a game-changing event that determines who moves on and who goes home in the final weekend of the rodeo season makes it that much more exciting.”
Decker said this is just the first step in what he hopes is a win-win for the rodeo, its fans and the contestants.
“I wanted it to be a big deal,” he said.
The contestants have taken notice.
“It’s great to have a good rodeo, period,” Jones said. “When you add $5,000 in steer roping and make it a featured event, that’s a plus.
“A month ago, I wasn’t as close as I am now. I’ve gained some ground, and I’ve got a chance.”