From quality entertainment to a feeling of home, the American Royal is attractive
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For many, rodeo and family go hand in hand. Most contestants were raised in the sport and hold tight to familial values as they chase their rodeo dreams.
More importantly, though, fans realize that rodeo is quality family entertainment, which is the driving force behind the attraction to the American Royal Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at Hale Arena in the American Royal complex.
It’s high-flying action featuring the greatest cowboys and cowgirls in the sport, but that’s just part of the equation. There will be mutton busting, in which children ages 7 and younger will have a chance to ride sheep prior to all three rodeo performances. For the first time, children will be able to sign up to mutton bust at the American Royal. Competition will take place at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. before the rodeo Friday and Saturday, and at 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. It is $10 to participate, and the top kids from each go will get to compete in the pro rodeo.
“We want to provide families with as much entertainment as they can get for their entertainment dollar,” said Alex Lowe, co-chairman of the American Royal’s rodeo committee. “We’ll have a lot going on from the time they park their cars until they’re ready to go home.”
Lowe knows the appeal. Growing up near Olathe, Lowe’s family had season tickets to the American Royal Rodeo every year. In fact, it was the annual event in the West Bottoms that burned a fire in the Lowe family that still burns today.
“I think family is the best part of rodeo,” said Lowe, whose brother, Will, is a three-time world champion bareback rider. “It’s not only the immediate family, but it’s also the tradition of family. If you look at Kaycee Feild, he’s just following in the footsteps of his dad, Lewis. They’re both world champions.”
Yes, they are. Kaycee Feild is the reigning world champion bareback rider from Payson, Utah. Lewis Feild is a five-time world champ – three bareback riding and two all-around titles – and is in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. But there is a long line of greatness throughout the generations, and the legacies continue in Kansas City.
You can see it in Roy Cooper, who dominated the 1980s, and his youngest son, Tuf, the reigning world champion tie-down roper, one of three Cooper brothers who have competed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo the last two seasons. There are also the Wrights, from two-time world champion Cody to his talented bronc riding siblings, Jesse, Alex, Spencer and Jake; the team roping Tryans, Clay, Travis, Brady and Chase; and the steer wrestling Duvalls, from world champion Roy Duvall to his NFR-qualifying nephews Spud and Sam to Sam’s son, Riley. They’re just a few of the family ties to the game.
Sixteen-time world champion Trevor Brazile, the nine-time and reigning all-around titlist, travels the rodeo trail with his wife, Shada, who has made a name for herself in barrel racing this season. Turtle Powell, the 2012 team roping-heading world champion, is married to Molly, a 10-time NFR qualifier.
Though he doesn’t still ride bucking horses like his brother, Alex Lowe understands why it’s such a big deal.
“We grew up rodeoing every weekend,” he said. “You’re around the right type of people. You have responsibilities growing up. You learn the things you need to learn, the things that will help you as you get older.
“It’s like one big family. Even now, Will has that in his traveling partners. Those guys are traveling down the road every day. It gets long, so it’s important having people around you that you enjoy. They’re almost as close to their traveling partners as they are their real family.”
It’s the nature of the sport. When you travel like a band of gypsies, sometimes it’s nice to know there’s always a feeling of home, whether it’s in Puyallup, Wash., or the American Royal.
“When we were kids and started in rodeo, my parents didn’t rodeo, so we were really new to it,” Lowe said. “That’s why I have a different perspective than a lot of people.
“We just walked in, and we were welcomed with open arms. We had to rely on people who knew a lot more than us, and they helped us along the way.”
And that’s why events like the American Royal Rodeo make up quality family entertainment.