GUYMON, Okla. – It takes a lot to put on a great rodeo.
The volunteers with the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo know that very well. They’ve seen the rodeo evolve from humble beginnings nearly 80 years ago to be what it is today: A showcase of great athletes that compete in America’s first extreme sport.
“We take pride in being a great rodeo, and we have established over the years a legacy for being a great rodeo,” said Ken Stonecipher, the event’s production manager. “One of the great things about having Pete Carr and Carr Pro Rodeo is that he understands that. He wants to make our rodeo the best it can be. Pete understands production, and it shows in every performance of the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo.”
Carr takes pride in the annual May extravaganza and takes a talented crew of rodeo professionals to the Oklahoma Panhandle to make sure the job is done well. But that’s his operation at every event he produces, whether it’s in Silverton, Texas, or Eagle, Colo.
“I think the best part of the rodeo business is the satisfaction of putting on high quality events,” said Carr, a former bareback rider who has been part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for six years. “We put so much emphasis on the production. Yes, it takes great animals, and it takes great breeding programs. But it also takes preparation and planning.”
From memorable openings to making sure every step of the looks as if it’s running smoothly, the Carr crew puts in many hours before the start of any rodeo. Carr has hired John and Sandy Gwatney, a husband-wife team that is instrumental in the behind-the-scenes work.
“We try to have the theatrical portion of our show not interfere with the competition side,” said John Gwatney, a production supervisor for the Dallas-based livestock firm. “We try to run a good, fast, clean performance without interfering with the competition.
“That’s where we’re different from other rodeo companies. If we’re not ready, the cowboy has to wait. When it comes time for that cowboy to compete, we’ve done everything we can to make that animal ready for that cowboy, so all he has to do is nod his head.”
Work begins well before the first rodeo of the season, then all those plans are implemented inside the arenas across the country. Gwatney has served as timed event chute boss at some of the biggest events in ProRodeo, from the Clem McSpadden National Finals Rodeo to the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
“At the Rafter C rodeos, what starts the production is our version of Americana,” said Gwatney, a team roper and steer wrestler who has worked in rodeo production much of his life. “We’re looking to get peoples’ emotions up, get them on the edge of their seats so when that first animal bucks, the height of the excitement is already up.
“Whether it is one of the many costume changes or the uniformity of the yellow horses, the pageantry of it all, we’re trying to stir something in those people. What makes Pete’s rodeos successful is the timing of it all.”
Another important piece of the puzzle is having the crew that works well together, something Carr has in bundles. He realizes the need to have a good staff around him.
“We micromanage our program ahead of time,” Carr said. “We can’t be perfect, but we can dang sure get as close as we can. We’re always striving to be better, identifying the weaknesses and taking constructive criticism. It’s an everyday challenge, but I think trying to be better is just trying to take it to the next level.
“I’m proud of what we do, but I know we can always find ways to improve things. I like that the people I work with have that same mindset, too.”
That mindset comes from years on the job and an understanding of what fans want to see. It also comes with great commitment and passion, the driving factor in the world of rodeo.
“We love rodeo, and we love raising bucking horses. It’s something that gets in your blood. It got in mine in high school, and I haven’t been able to kick it yet,” he said with a laugh. “You do it because you love it.”