STEPHENVILLE, Texas – The people who organize Stephenville’s ProRodeo have a common theme they adhere to every year.
“We take pride in our town being the Cowboy Capital of the World,” said Chad Decker, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo. “If you wear that crown, you have to produce. I have a very good group of people on the committee that are more than willing to go the extra mile to be as successful as we can be.”
They will show it off during this year’s event, set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Sept. 26, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, at Lone Star Arena. It’s a fabulous way to close out the 2015 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association regular season.
“We have the largest population of rodeo cowboys per square foot in the world,” Decker said. “They’ve been on the road battling it out, and for them to come home from being on the road all year, they get to close out their year right in their own backyard.
“I think it’s something they enjoy, especially now that we’ve got our money up. I look at it as a homecoming for these guys.”
As one of the final events of the season, the Stephenville rodeo will be a major stop for many top cowboys and cowgirls, even those that don’t live in Erath County. It will feature the largest purse of any rodeo that weekend that is open to all contestants. That’s just one of many major attractions for the top players in the game.
“We have the best stock contractor in rodeo with Pete Carr,” Decker said of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock firm that has been nominated as PRCA stock contractor of the year each of the past two seasons. “He has tremendous livestock, and it’s something all these guys want to compete on. That’s important.”
It’s also a crowd-pleaser for fans. They realize that a number of contestants will need to collect nice paydays in Stephenville if they want to advance to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the season-ending championship that features only the top 15 contestants in each event.
“That’s what makes my Sunday afternoon crowd so big,” Decker said. “With Stephenville being a rodeo town, we cater to most of our spectators, who are rodeo people. They understand what’s on the line. It makes it more interesting for the crowd, because they know what’s at stake for the guys.”
The crowd also wants to be entertained, which is a big part of all three performances inside Lone Star Arena. This year’s event will feature Boyd Polhamus, a three-time PRCA announcer of the year who has worked the NFR 18 times, and Troy “The Wild Child” Lerwill, who has been named the PRCA specialty act of the year six times.
The committee also will feature a special dedication each performance, starting with American Hero Night on Friday. The family of Chris Kyle is heavily involved in the planning, and one local recipient will be honored during the performance.
“We’re going to take $2 off every ticket sold at the gate and donate it to this person, and the rodeo will be matching every dollar,” Decker said. “The business of Stephenville will be chipping in what they can for gift cards to this recipient to make their life easier. It’s giving back. We’re going to take care of them.”
He has dubbed Saturday’s performance as “We’re going to get Western Night,” with the focus on Carr’s production and animal athletes. The evening will close with a concert from West Texas-based artist Jake Hooker.
In addition to the final performance closing out ProRodeo’s regular season on Sunday, the rodeo committee will be showcasing its primary mission, raising funds for its scholarship foundation.
“We’re in a unique area where Stephenville and Erath County are split between two regions in the Texas High School Rodeo Association,” Decker said. “Right before each of the PRCA events, we’re going to have a match between every winner of those events battling for a $1,000 scholarship in every event.
“We’re doing something that’s never been done before. Hopefully we’re setting the groundwork to be trailblazers for others to follow.”
It’s just what fans would expect in the Cowboy Capital of the World.