HEMPSTEAD, Texas – “The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.”
It’s more than the lyrics to a classic Texas song, especially for the organizers of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, which has three rodeo performances set for Thursday, Oct. 4-Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Waller.
“We work very hard with all aspects of our rodeo to make sure we are drawing the top talent,” said Clint Sciba, chairman of the volunteer rodeo committee. “We introduced our eliminator events a few years ago, and they’ve been a big hit, not only for the people who enjoy our fair and rodeo but for the contestants that come to compete.”
The Tie-Down Roping Eliminator is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, and will feature four world champions – Tuf Cooper, Shane Hanchey, Marty Yates and Caleb Smidt – as part of it’s eight-man field. Also in the mix are NFR qualifiers Sterling Smith, Blane Cox, Cade Swor and Cory Solomon, the last of whom is from Waller County.
The Team Roping Eliminator will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, and will feature eight teams, including world champions Joe Beaver, Jade Corkill, Chad Masters and Junior Nogueira. In each event, the slowest time in each round is eliminated. As rounds continue, the field dwindles down until a champion is crowned.
Those aren’t the only special features to the well-recognized rodeo; it also features a special prize given to the all-around champion, who will be awarded a custom-made rifle.
But what may be the biggest incentive to cowboys might be the purse. The fair and rodeo includes $5,000 in “added” money in each event, meaning local dollars are added to the entry fees to make up the purse.
Money doesn’t just help the contestants pay bills and stay on the rodeo trail, dollars equal championship points. That makes money earned go even further. The top 15 on the money list in each event at the end of each regular season advance to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand finale. The contestant in each event with the most money won in that season will be crowned world champion.
“I came here before it was PRCA sanctioned,” said Sterling Crawley, a four-time NFR qualifier in saddle bronc riding. “When I was in high school, I came here. It’s always been fun. The atmosphere has always been good here, and it’s just gotten better. It’s not far from home, and the horses are usually good, so we want to be sure to compete in Hempstead.”
He and his older brother, Jacobs, have found success at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo more often than not. While Sterling lives in Stephenville, Jacobs lives in Boerne. For both, it’s an easy drive for a chance at good money riding Pete Carr Pro Rodeo bucking horses.
“This is a great rodeo; I love Waller County,” said Jacobs Crawley, the 2015 world champion saddle bronc rider. “It’s got a good turnout, and they’re trying to make it a better event every year. I’m just a fan.
“If the environment’s right, it makes you want it that much more, and that environment is right here. You have a great dance, a great hospitality, and Pete Carr brings great bucking horses.”
Carr has been recognized as one of the elite livestock producers in the game. He’s been nominated five times for PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year, and he’s been associated with the Hempstead rodeo since it has been part of ProRodeo.
Over the last five years, no other contractor has had more animals selected to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. That big for the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. The animal athletes that in Carr’s herd are attractive to the top cowboys who play the game.
Of course, Hempstead’s rodeo is one of the first of the new year. The 2018 regular season concludes the end of September, so cowboys and cowgirls hoping to kick off a solid 2019 campaign make their way to southeast Texas the first weekend in October every year.”
“It’s a little tough to start on something new before you finish what you’ve started,” said bareback rider Steven Dent, an eight-time NFR qualifier from Mullen, Neb. “It feels good to get a good start. This is a good rodeo.”