BELLVILLE, Texas – A few decades ago, Bellville’s rodeo committee consisted of just one man.
Al Peck changed that with one simple question: “I just asked the guy that was on the committee if I could help,” he said. “I just wanted to be involved, and it really mushroomed since I started.”
That’s no exaggeration. Ray Burger was the lone man on the rodeo committee for the Austin County Fair and Rodeo until Peck offered assistance 35 years ago. The two of them worked together for a bit, making sure the fans got what they were seeking in their hometown rodeo.
Now Peck remains on the committee, one of dozens of people who help organize and handle the duties that are involved in producing the annual event, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10-Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Austin County Fairgrounds in Bellville.
“It just flourished from there,” Peck said. “There are people that just come out of the woodworks to help. We have people from all works of life wanting to help.”
In honor of his years of service to the rodeo, the committee honored Peck with a lifetime buckle. A lifelong cowboy – he competing in team roping until just a few years ago – he stands for what that buckle represents.
“When this all started, my wife and I were just beginning to rodeo,” he said. “Our kids were still pretty young at the time, and they were beginning the youth rodeo stuff.
“I guess that buckle means I’ve been on the rodeo committee longer than anybody that’s still alive. I wanted to see the rodeo get better, and it has, but that’s because of the people who volunteer to be on the rodeo committee. I could go on and on about the ones who contribute to the rodeo and have for many years.”
It’s a sense of community pride for Peck, who knows how much people in Austin County look forward to the fair and rodeo every October. Each year, hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls from across North America converge on this community of nearly 4,300 people to take part in a progressive, yet historical rodeo.
“I think what makes the rodeo has a lot to do with the enthusiasm that all the volunteers put into the thing,” said Peck, 75. “It’s a big joint effort by everybody on the rodeo committee. It’s a good show, and we usually have good acts. We draw a lot of good contestants; we get a lot of the top-name contestants because it’s starting the new (season) in rodeo.
“We are a contestant-friendly rodeo committee, and we’re glad they’re here. We try to make it as good as possible. We want the ground to be as good for everybody in every event. We know they are traveling, so we want to make them feel at home. I think everybody enjoys the enthusiasm we show toward the contestants, and they come out for that.”
The fans that come out for the three performances realize they have something special, which is one reason why it is so packed. Another reason is that the admission price is hard to beat.
“Once you enter the fairgrounds, you don’t have to pay anything extra to go to the rodeo,” he said. “When we fill the bleachers, that’s part of the entertainment package that a person pays for the fair. I think this community is Western and rodeo-related, and I think they really enjoy the rodeo.”