DODGE CITY, Kan. – Jared Slagle might have the best seat in the house when it comes to the rodeo arena.
Slagle is a rodeo announcer from tiny Callaway, Neb., and he will be the featured voice of the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association Finals, set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23-Saturday, Sept. 24, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at Roundup Arena.
“I think the thing that sticks out in my mind about that event is the actual talent that will be there for the finals,” said Slagle, who, along with other contract personnel, was selected to work the championship. “If you look at the list, we’ve not only got the best of the KPRA that will be in Dodge City, but we have the best in rodeo.
“We’re talking about guys that have been featured at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.”
Those guys include tie-down ropers Jerome Schneeberger of Ponca City, Okla., and Garrett Nokes of McCook, Neb., and steer wrestler Dru Melvin of Hebron, Neb. Nokes qualified for the NFR in steer wrestling in 2005, while Melvin earned trips to the NFR in 2006 and ’14. Schneeberger has 11 qualifications on his resume, including the 2001 NFR average title.
“They are just the ones with NFR experience, but the talent doesn’t drop off at the KPRA finals,” Slagle said. “I can say in all truthfulness that the type of talent fans see at the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo will be what they see all three nights of this finals. People who don’t follow the KPRA don’t realize just how talented these cowboys and cowgirls are.”
In fact, Schneeberger won the Roundup title just a few years ago.
“There are also added events that you normally wouldn’t see. Breakaway roping is a crowd favorite. Ladies have to rope a calf in under 3 seconds, and there are some really talented ladies that will be competing in Dodge City.”
While there are the traditional events that fans see regularly, the KPRA Finals also will feature 40-40 team roping (which consists of two ropers whose ages add up to at least 80) and ranch bronc riding – contestants use a livestock saddle instead of a specialized bronc saddle.
“One thing I saw last year was how people responded to the ranch bronc riding,” Slagle said. “It’s something new, and it’s something many people haven’t seen. That’s how rodeo started on the ranches centuries ago, and now we’ve come full circle.
“The wilder the better.”
He knows of what he speaks. Before he got into the announcing game, Slagle was a saddle bronc rider. He competed in high school, college and worked some smaller rodeos while also testing the waters of the professional ranks. It’s all a transition for the ranch-raised cowboy.
“I got out of rodeo and got in the business world,” he said. “At a certain point, I got tired of the suit and tie. I wanted to find a career that would allow me to get back to my roots. I had the opportunity to travel with a professional rodeo announcer for a while, and now I’m doing this. I really enjoy it.”
He is one of 11 people selected to work the rodeo and will be joined by sound technician Garrison Panzer; timers Jennifer Greenleaf and Missie Gerritzen; pickup men Mike Greenleaf and Scott Swayze; bullfighters Dustin Glaze and Cody Calkins; and judges Kenny Allison, Joe Johnson and Bronc Rumford.
“It’s an honor for me to be selected to announce this rodeo,” Slagle said.
It also is an honor for the contestants, who earned the right to compete in Dodge City by finishing among the top 12 in their respective events.
“For many of the contestants that don’t rodeo every single day of the week, this is their NFR,” he said. “They work during the week and rodeo on the weekends. They’ve worked hard all summer long to get somewhere.
“The nice thing about Dodge City is there’s a lot going on. That committee has created such a great event for these contestants that might not get to see the bright lights of Las Vegas. To them, the bright lights of Dodge City is exciting.”
That they are, but so is this championship. It takes hard work, dedication and raw talent to excel in any sport, much less one as diversified as rodeo. The qualifiers have earned the right to play for the biggest prizes in the KPRA.
“This is their championship, and the Dodge City Roundup committee knows what it’s doing on how to run a pro show and how to treat contestants,” Slagle said. “The contestants really feel like they’ve made it. The experience they are about to receive is something they don’t see all year long.”
That’s just what championships are all about.