CLAREMORE, Okla. – For many folks, turning 65 is like an alarm clock ringing retirement, a time to slow down and take a gentler path in life.
That’s not the way it is at the Will Rogers Stampede, which is celebrating its 65th year with a bang during the three performance set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 27-Sunday, May, 29, at the Will Rogers Roundup Club Arena.
“We want our 65th year to be our best year,” said David Petty, chairman of the volunteer rodeo committee that produces the annual rodeo. “We have a great core group of people who work very hard every year to make the Will Rogers Stampede a great event, and we’ve already kicked in overdrive for this year. We want it to be a celebration everyone in Rogers County will remember for many years to come.”
The rodeo was established all those years ago to carry on an outstanding tradition of the Western lifestyle that is part of the region. From his days of twirling ropes and spinning tales, Will Rogers was an American icon. The rodeo – just like the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch and the J.M. Davis Gun Museum – is woven in the fabric of Rogers County.
“It’s just pretty amazing for a rodeo to go on continuously for 65 years,” said Dawn Petty, a third-generation member of her family to be involved in the Will Rogers Roundup Club, the main organization behind the annual rodeo and other community events. “It’s also a 100 percent volunteer organization, so that says a lot about the rodeo, too.
“I think it’s another great thing to do in Claremore over the Memorial Day weekend. There’s so much here, and with fuel prices the way they are, this would be a great day trip for the entire family. They could go to the Will Rogers Memorial or the gun museum during the day, then come to the rodeo that evening. What a fun day that would be.”
The Will Rogers Stampede not only features great entertainment, but also some of the best contestants in ProRodeo. Memorial Day weekend is a great time for many contestants to be on the rodeo trail, and most are making their way through Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas to take a shot at the money available.
“We get most of the big players in the game,” said Scott Grover, the arena announcer now in his seventh year calling the action in Claremore. “This is a good time. We’ve got two other rodeos in the Prairie Circuit that weekend, plus it’s right before the rodeo in Fort Smith (Ark.). That plays a lot into it, because the cowboys and cowgirls can take advantage of the rodeos’ proximity to one another.
“But I think there’s a lot more to it. I think it’s the history and the hospitality. I talk to cowboys all the time who tell me they love coming to Claremore. That says a lot about the rodeo, but it also says a lot about the hard work the committee puts into having a great rodeo.”
The world-class competition is a benefit for all of northeast Oklahoma – folks from all over the region make their way to Claremore every May to see the show. Whether it’s the time of year or the great opportunity to make money by making a run at the Will Rogers Stampede, the fans love the idea of seeing the best in the business fight for the coveted title. That’s been a consistent measurement in Claremore for more than six decades.
“The rodeo provides the community the opportunity to see world champion cowboys, but also it provides a huge social event,” Dawn Petty said. “You come to the Will Rogers Stampede, and you see people you haven’t seen in years. You get to sit down and visit with them.
“Plus the contestants make a huge economic impact on our community. We have 500-plus contestants coming into Claremore, spending money at the restaurants, the gas stations and the dry cleaners. They come into our town and they spend their money here.”