CLAREMORE, Okla. – Jim Thomas has never claimed to be a cowboy, but he’s ready to play the part.
Thomas is Claremore’s city manager, and this year he’s received two major honors: He was named the Claremore’s Progressive Person of the Year in the Claremore Progress, then was named to be the grand marshal at this year’s Will Rogers Stampede parade, which takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 28.
“I’ve never been a grand marshal,” said Thomas, who has been at his post for about three and a half years. “It’s kind of humbling. I’m going to wear my cowboy hat and my boots. I’m not a cowboy, but I’m a cowboy at heart. It’s a nice honor, and I appreciate them extending the invitation to me.”
This marks the first time in several years a parade has been part of the rodeo weekend.
“It’s a new tradition that’s coming back,” he said. “David (Petty) and I talked about the whole weekend, and we wanted to make it a big event. This is the 70th year for the Will Rogers Stampede, so we want to make it special.”
Petty is the chairman of the Stampede’s rodeo committee, and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate the event – not only is this the 70th anniversary, but the event also will celebrate its two straight titles for Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Small Rodeo of the Year.
“Having a rodeo to receive that much recognition bodes well for our community pride, just as Rogers State University and the Will Rogers Museum,” Thomas said. “This is another one of those highlights that Claremore can promote.”
The Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 27-Sunday, May 29, at Will Rogers Stampede Arena. Now an award-winning showcase, the city manager recognizes its value.
“I used to manage a city in Utah right outside of Ogden, which has the Pioneer Days Rodeo every year,” Thomas said. “Alan Hall is the chairman of the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo, and he’s a friend of mine. He was in Las Vegas last year when the award was given out, and he sent me a text.
“He’s never been to Claremore, but he knew I was here, and he was excited for us as a community. The rodeo is a direct reflection of this community.”
Tickets are on sale through the event’s website, www.WillRogersStampede.com, and include family packs and adult passes offered at a significant discount online. This year’s event will feature Texas music concerts every night after the performances, with Adam Hood on Friday, Cooder Graw on Saturday and Cody Canada and The Departed to close out Sunday’s show.
While the weekend will close with a bang, the Downtown Hoedown will add the perfect amount of fireworks to kick-start the festivities. The event will take place Thursday, May 26, and will close down Main Street from City Hall to Route 66. It will feature barbecue, live music and some other Western flare.
“We have a lot of visitors from outside the area that come to town for the rodeo,” Thomas said. “We wanted the cowboys and cowgirls feel welcomed. We got together with some of our civic groups and the downtown business association.
“This is one of those brainchildren that the more you talk about it, the more excited everyone gets. Plus a hoedown is an awesome word to use when you’re talking about an activity.”
It all comes together for the perfect celebration of all Claremore has to offer.
“We want to get the community excited that we’ve got a great rodeo right in our back yard,” he said. “The award adds another one of those merits that recognizes this community. It’s a great place to raise families. Rodeos are another one of those quality-of-life things that every community should have.
“I’m very excited we have such a good one here.”