It’s fitting, with the annual rodeo having one of its most successful weekends in years. Hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls made their way to this west Texas city to showcase their talents and ride for the glory that comes with the sport. Moreover, thousands of fans flocked into the Rodeo Bowl to witness it all.
“We had some big names, like J.J. Hampton, Will Lowe and J.B. Mauney,” said Cash Berry, president of the volunteer committee that organizes the annual rodeo. “We were blessed to get past world champions to compete here, and the whole county’s been a buzz with what we had this year.
“I’ve heard many wonderful comments about the upgrade in the facilities and what they saw with the contestants that came to Big Spring.”
The committee has made some significant changes to the complex and to how it handles the business at hand. This was the second straight year that featured increased local dollars in the purse. In years past, the committee included $2,500 per event; the “added money” has increased to $5,000, which is a major attraction to the cowboys and cowgirls that make their livings in the sport. The added money is mixed with the contestants’ entry fees to make up the total purse.
“Last year we didn’t quite see the benefit of increasing the added money,” Berry said. “This year, we were in our second year at $5,000, and we could see where it paid off. We still have some things to improve, but we’re re-energized and ready to move on and keep making it bigger and better.”
Some bigger and better things happened inside the arena this past weekend. Leighton Berry, the No. 1 bareback rider in the world standings, won his event, while Lowe, a three-time world champion, finished third. Eight-time world champion heeler Rich Skelton snagged a second-place paycheck while roping with Kolby Kreiger, while 2015 saddle bronc world champ Jacobs Crawley rode his way to a tie for second place.
Mauney, a two-time PBR world champion, captured the bull riding title in Big Spring with a 90.5-point ride on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Ice Storm. Reigning world champion Martha Angelone and nine-time WPRA titlist Kelsie Domer shared the breakaway roping title.
“We were about 1,500 better as far as our overall crowd count,” Berry said. “We’re still waiting to find out the final numbers, but we saw some significant improvements.”
That’s the goal every year. The local organizers want more people involved and more people to enjoy three nights of world-class competition and family-friendly entertainment. They realize there are many alternatives for people, which is why they work with Carr and his team of professionals to produce an event that so many witnessed.
“I’m the fourth generation involved with this,” Berry said. “My great-grandad was on the first board. My dad was president before I took the reins from him. We’ve got a family investment here. I’ve got a really great group of guys. The board I have right now has a lot of passion. We know it’s going to add more work on us. I think we’re going to reap those rewards.”
It takes dedication and a sincere appreciation for community for individuals to volunteer to produce an event of this magnitude. Each person takes his or her work seriously, and they know it involves a team effort to pull it off year after year.
“We had our end-of-the-year meeting after cleaning up the place Sunday,” he said. “You could see it on the guy’s faces: This was an event we could all hang our hats on and say we’re proud to have put it on.”
That teamwork extends from each member of the committee to each person they hire. Berry pointed to the relationships the committee has with Carr and his crew, announcer Anthony Lucia, sound director Josh Hilton, clown and entertainer Matt Merritt, trick rider Jessica Blair Fowlkes, Shane Simon with Real Screen Video and all the others that make the rodeo happen.
“Pete and his crew not only produce our rodeo and do a dang good job, but Pete is instrumental in our success,” Berry said. “The best part of our rodeo is the people, the contract acts, Pete Carr and his people. Those guys are professionals, and they do their best to make our rodeo a world-class event.
“I’ve made lifelong friends because of the people we bring into help us with our rodeo. It’s nice to see them come back every year.”
There is no rodeo in Big Spring without a cowboy reunion.