Idaho rodeo uses leather-like look on concrete wall for safety’s sake
GOODING, Idaho – It stands but just a few feet tall, but the wall that surrounds Andy James Arena was troublesome.
The animals that were part of the annual Gooding Pro Rodeo couldn’t see the gray concrete. Horses would run into it; cowboys were being injured and more were going to be.
“I’ve been here 24 years,” said Don Gill, manager of the fair and rodeo, set for Thursday, Aug. 18-Saturday, Aug. 20, with a special “Beauty and the Beast” performance set for Wednesday, Aug. 17. All performances take place at 8 p.m. “About 15 years ago, they had hauled in a bunch of dirt and had a 4-foot concrete wall with a fence around it.
“The first couple of years, I don’t think the horses could see it. I just started painting the wall so it would be visible to the horses; it’s been every color in the world.”
It became a regular thing to paint the concrete, and that’s why the colors would change. A few years ago, an idea sparked a plan to make it decorative instead of just colorized, so he went about the work to make it so.
There aren’t many things that point to the Western lifestyle than a hand-tooled leather, so why not prepare the concrete to look like it?
“I hand-drew the thing on the concrete all the way around,” said Gill, who was assisted by his daughter, Hailey (Gill) Loose, and another helper, Tyler Wines. “It was actually Hailey’s idea; she said, ‘Dad, why don’t you make it look like a belt?’ So, we did.
“The three of us painted that whole thing.”
It was painstaking work, and there were several hours involved in making it look as authentic as possible. At the time, Wine was a student who competed in college rodeo; now he’s Dr. Tyler Wines. Loose is married now, but she also was a flag-bearer at the National Finals Rodeo for a decade.
All their work paid off. A few years ago, Gill came up with the brilliant idea to have a template made to make the process easier, so he reached out to a Nancy Martiny, a saddle-maker.
“When I hand-drew it, the pattern changed,” said Gill, who designs the rodeo’s posters every year. “You forget that you’re on a 600-foot wall. I asked Nancy if she could make me a pattern.
“We just cut it out, and then you trace around it. Basically, it’s like paint by numbers at that point.”
The work they’ve done has been noticed.
“That rodeo does all the little things right to make the rodeo better,” said Steve Kenyon, the event’s announcer. “Don Gill is a great artist, and he created a belt on that entire concrete wall, and it looks very cool when you see it.”
Even the cowboys that compete in Gooding have recognized the unique design on the inside of the arena that hosts a unique rodeo experience.
“It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” said Caleb Bennett, a nine-time NFR qualifier from Corvallis, Montana. “It adds some class to the inside of that arena. It looks really sharp; it’s clean-looking and very detailed. It adds some spunk.”
What began as a tool to help animals see the gray concrete wall better has turned into a recognizable piece of Gooding Pro Rodeo lore. It adds to the spice and flavor of an already exciting venue, and it’s something that showcases the little details Gill and others do to make their rodeo special to fans and contestants alike.
“We never have a horse close to it now, because they can see the wall,” he said. “Yes, it’s decorative, but the whole idea was because with the lights on at night, that gray concrete just blended in. I just wanted to make sure they see it.”
They do, and so does everyone else that makes their way to that historic arena.