STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Over the last few years, many changes have been made concerning the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo.
The rodeo community has noticed. For the second straight year, it has been nominated for Medium Rodeo of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Not only is it one of the top five events its size, PRCA members have recognized it as one of the 20 best out of more than 600 rodeos.
Of course, Stephenville’s rodeo should earn that distinction.
“We take pride in our town being the Cowboy Capital of the World,” said Chad Decker, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the event. “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.
“We have the largest population of rodeo cowboys per square foot in the world.”
This year’s event is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at Lone Star Arena. That makes for plenty of fireworks on the final weekend of the 2016 ProRodeo regular season.
“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,” Decker said. “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 producer that has received five straight nominations for Stock Contractor of the Year. “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.”