HEMPSTEAD, Texas – In this part of Texas, rodeo is more than a sport. It’s a way of life for many.
The Waller County Fair and Rodeo recognizes that in a big way. Not only is it home to an amazing Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event – set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5-Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead – but also it features rodeo-related events through much of the nine-day exposition.
“We’ve made some changes to our ranch rodeos to kick off the fair weekend,” said Paul Shollar, co-chairman of the Waller County Fair Board’s rodeo committee. “We’ll have the women’s ranch rodeo on Friday (Sept. 28) and the men’s ranch rodeo on Saturday (Sept. 30). That’s become a big hit.”
It’s just the start of big things inside the fairgrounds arena. The Little Britches rodeo takes place Sunday, Oct. 1, followed by the Waller County Team Roping on Monday, Oct. 2. The top cowboys in the game kick off with a couple of specialized events: The Tie-Down Roping Eliminator on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and the Team Roping Eliminator on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
“We’ve invited eight of the best tie-down ropers in the world and eight of the top teams,” Shollar said. “Five of our eight tie-down ropers are world champions and account for 36 gold buckles. In team roping, we have 85 NFR qualifiers and a number of world champions. That says something about the kind of event we’re putting on with these eliminators.”
The format is unique. Each contestant or team will compete in the first round with the slowest time being eliminated. Eliminations continue each round until the champion is crowned and earns the lion’s share of the purse – $10,000 in tie-down roping and $15,000 in team roping.
“It’s for a big purse during the week,” Shollar said. “You have them competing back to back each night until we get the winner. It’s a fun format for us, for the cowboys and for the fans.”
The elite cowboys and cowgirls will continue the show, with dozens of world championships and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers all competing during the PRCA rodeo.
“We’ve got $5,000 added money per event,” he said of the committee purse that is mixed with contestants’ entry fees to come up with the total payout. “That has skyrocketed us to over 500 contestants.
“We started as a ProRodeo six years ago, and the first thing we did was bring Pete Carr Pro Rodeo on board. That has been a wonderful relationship, and it’s another reason why we get so many of the top contestants. With us being one of the first rodeos of the new season, it was hard to bring roughstock riders. We don’t have that problem anymore.”
Carr has been nominated as PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year five straight times and has some of the best bucking stock in the game. That’s attractive to the cowboys that ride bucking animals, especially since half the score is based on the animals’ performances.
“Pete and his crew are unbelievable,” Shollar said. “They fit right in with us. They treat you with respect, like we’re just one of the guys. They include you on everything, and they know that rodeo is more than a sport; good production just makes it great entertainment.”
That includes a couple of key factors with announcer Andy Stewart and clown/entertainer Gizmo McCracken, both of whom have received multiple nominations in their respective categories.
“I think what makes our rodeo one of the best is the production,” said Dustin Standley, president of the Waller County Fair Board. “We put on the rodeo like it’s an attraction. It’s not just a rodeo. This is over the top and exciting.”