CHAMPIONSHIP HOLDS A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE HEARTS OF SOONER STATE CONTESTANTS
OKLAHOMA CITY – Middle America is the perfect home for the International Finals Rodeo.
“There are a lot of people in the state of Oklahoma that still love rodeo,” said Fields, a three-time International Professional Rodeo Association world champion steer wrestler from Oklahoma City. “This has a great history. Rodeo has lasted in Oklahoma, and it’s going to last. That’s the IPRA’s foundation.
“People have learned that this is what they have.”
It’s pretty good. The IPRA has been around for 65 years, and this marks the 45th year for the IFR, which will have four performances set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. This also is the 25th consecutive year it has taken place in Oklahoma City.
Only the top 15 cowboys and cowgirls in each event qualify for the finale, which features contestants from across the United States, Canada and even one cowboy from Australia. They arrive in Oklahoma City with all the fan fair that’s deserving of a world championship.
“When I bought this IPRA card ready to compete, it got pretty serious,” said Danell Tipton, the 1995 IPRA world champion bull rider who has qualified for the IFR in steer wrestling in 2014-15. “If I’m in the top 15 and have a shot to make the finals in my back yard, then I’m going to go after it by any means necessary.”
Tipton is from Spencer, Okla., a town of about 4,000 people just east of Oklahoma City. It’s where the 41-year-old grew to become a cowboy.
“Having the IFR in Oklahoma City means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s been right at my back door and has been for years. I’ve always showed up here, and I’ve always performed outstanding when there was a rodeo in Oklahoma City.
“The IFR is where I grew up. I was raised in the IPRA.”
In addition to his top form in the Oklahoma City-based association, Tipton also has succeeded on rodeo avenue he had been down. He was a two-time bull riding qualifier to the National Finals Rodeo. Like Tipton, Fields qualified for the NFR from 2004-06. He won the average title his first season there.
But the IPRA is where he developed his passion for the game. He didn’t start wrestling steers until 1997, then earned his first gold buckle three years later.
“The great thing about the going to the IPRA rodeos is I’ve got to go back and see a lot of guys I hadn’t seen in a long time,” Fields said. “At the end of the day, it’s good to complete close to home and compete at the IFR. You have a lot of close friends and family that never get to see you perform.
“For all those people that support you all year long, this is their chance to see you perform.”
That family atmosphere is also a reason why the IPRA is popular among contestants. It’s also popular for businesses that support the IFR through sponsorships: Love’s Country Store, RAM Trucks, Tener’s, Graham’s, Oxbow Tack, OG&E, Langston’s, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Harrison Manufacturing.
“The IPRA has been around for years, and it’s a strong family tradition,” Tipton said. “Family is a tradition. Family is important to the association. I like that.”