STEPHENVILLE, Texas – There was never any hesitation in the minds of the committee members that organize Stephenville’s annual ProRodeo.
“It was something from Day 1 when this stuff with COVID started, we wanted to have the rodeo,” said James Andrea, president of the volunteers that work hard all year to have the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Sept. 26, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at Lone Star Arena.
“We just stayed after it. We were worried about sponsorships, but the city of Stephenville, the businesses and the people from Stephenville got behind us. We wanted it for the sport of rodeo, but we also wanted it for Stephenville. We’re glad to be doing it, and not just for the cowboys.”
The contestants have responded, too. As has been the case in ProRodeo, events that have continued through the COVID-19 global pandemic have seen increased numbers. The folks in Stephenville had more than 650 cowboys and cowgirls put their names in the hat to compete.
“The numbers have been good,” Andrea said. “We’re up about 100 contestants from last year’s rodeo. That’s a good sign, but it’s also pretty telling.”
Like most events across the globe, COVID has taken its toll on rodeo. More than half the events originally scheduled for 2020 were canceled and many others postponed from their original dates. Because of limitations in Las Vegas, the 2020 National Finals Rodeo will take place at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, to ensure the championship could continue with fans in attendance while also allowing for social distancing measures.
That makes the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo the last major stop of the regular season. Money won in Stephenville over those three days will make a difference as to which contestants in each event will advance to the NFR.
“We’ve always had the biggest names in rodeo at our event,” Andrea said. “Of course, many of them live here or around here, so this is more of a hometown rodeo for them.”
It’s also a big-time stop for the cowboys and cowgirls that live thousands of miles away and are eager to make fast Texas money with hopes of chasing their gold buckle dreams. In a year that’s made it difficult for ProRodeo contestants to actually make a living in the game they love, they’ll take every chance they can get.
“Probably the biggest challenge we faced with our rodeo was just not knowing,” said Andrea, who has been part of the volunteer committee for several years. “Even though we kept planning to have it, you always have that uncertainty.
“In the long run, it wasn’t going to be up to us. All we could do was the leg work and hope the politicians allowed us to have it. Now it’s a go, and we get to do it. That’s exciting for us, for the cowboys and everybody in Stephenville.”