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July 22, 2011

Velma gets ready for ‘The Picnic’

VELMA — Long before hybrid transportation was created, people around Velma, Bray and Duncan would hitch up their horses to wagons, or just saddle up and ride to Velma once a year for a big picnic and doctor cattle.

One hundred and twenty one years later, the Velma Old Settler’s Picnic continues to attract southern Oklahomans, most with Velma heritage.

While its history centers around a big friendly picnic atmosphere, time has changed that. Plus there’s much more to this rural event. It’s grown to a four day event and kicks off with a Ranch Rodeo at 7 p.m. Wednesday, geared at the working cowboy.

A traditional rodeo starts Thursday, with the final two rounds an evening performance on Friday,  July 29 and during the afternoon Saturday, July 30.

To committee member Chad Cowan, the Velma picnic is the social event of the year.

“I grew up down there; something you never miss is the picnic. I’ve roped in it ever since I was a little kid,” he said. “Lots of people call it the Velma ‘Picnic.’”

As for the “picnic” part, that’s long gone. There’s not a big food spread these days. Nobody brings potluck, Cowan said, but instead people take advantage of the food booths.

“The rodeo pretty much took over,” he noted. “The Ranch Rodeo is the most popular, and hundreds of people go to it on the first night, Wednesday. Everybody likes to watch.”

The Ranch Rodeo has grown from 10 ranches to 14 this year. It’s a bragging-rights event to be able to compete in, and the competitors have the intent of winning the top title.

“One year we didn’t have it because we didn’t have any cattle, but then we got some people to put some in and next year we had it,” Cowan said.

The ranches are mostly from Stephens County or neighboring counties. The lineup this year is: TJ Ranch, DC Ranch, TK Ranch, Rockin’ F Ranch, Four Rocks Ranch, KP Ranch, Sugarloaf Ranch, Circle S Ranch, HW Cattle Ranch, Double S Ranch, Broken Arrow, Tivis Ranch, Kelly Ranch and 5D Ranch.

Rumor has it winning in the Velma picnic traditional rodeo means more to some of the competitors than Cheyenne Frontier Days.

The events includes calf roping, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. There’s also single steer roping.

“I’m not sure what makes it so competitive. We draw some pretty tough competitors. In the last four years, we’ve had ranch bronc riding and the crowd likes the bronc riding. There’s usually a big crowd,” said Cowan

“I don’t know what the heat is going to do to us crowd-wise. It won’t affect the cowboys and cowgirls, they’re going to enter it no matter what.”

Livestock is provided by several ranchers. Jay Morgan is supplying team roping cattle, Toby Martin will have bulls and broncs, and Levi Williams is supplying cattle for the ranch rodeo.

There’s also competitions for youth, including a junior and pee wee division.

For those who want more, there’s a carnival each night, bands lined up to play after the rodeos and a parade at 11 a.m. on July 30.

Of course, a four-day community event also begs recognition for some people, Cowan said.

“We have the Velma Old Settler’s Picnic Living Legend award. I can’t say who it is. It’s my understanding, from the get go back when in the day, it’s people who has dedicated their time who help put the Old Settler’s Picnic,” he said.

Announcement of the recipient is made just before the final rodeo performance. Until then, those who know are sworn to secrecy.

Also, two queen candidates this year are vying for the 2011 title. They are Jasmine Tadlock and Ashton Fisher. They will be introduced and a winner crowned during the Thursday rodeo. Blake Smith will be announcing the rodeo this year. A judge has not been picked yet.

“That’s still undecided,” said Cowan, who added that the best part of it all is that all the activities except the food and carnival rides are free.

Other committee members and officers are Terry Sutton, president; Ronnie Milligan, vice president; Mark Condit, secretary/treasurer; and members, Cowan, Rodney Eason, Bret Hall, Pete Hall, Dusty Presgrove and Kent Pogue.

For information, email Mark, or call 580-444-3726 or visit the website

The picnic is held at Velma’s Humphrey Park on the west side of the town, off old State Highway 7.

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