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April 27, 2014

Chisholm Trail Stampede celebrates 25th anniversary

DUNCAN — Horses and the Kentucky Derby dominate the first weekend in May on a national level, but in Duncan, it’s Chisholm Trail Stampede PRCA Rodeo time. This year is the 25th anniversary celebration of the rodeo which started in 1989. Longtime committee president Barbara Davis anticipates the biggest crowd in years. Part of that is based off the growth in volunteers and committee members. She said Friday that there are 31 people on the rodeo committee this year.

“I am totally amazed. We have some who have been on it for years, but we also have several new members. We ordered new shirts and we just could not do this without them,” Davis said.

Stephens County Fair & Expo Center holds 2,500 to 3,000 people, she said, and with the rodeo set for two nights, Duncan’s population will grow – even if only temporarily. There are 279 registered contestants, up from two years ago when there were 268. Hailing from throughout Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas, the contestants are in the Prairie Circuit and this rodeo will help them qualify for the finals which Duncan also hosts, in October. Events are bullriding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, saddle bronc, tie down roping, team roping and ladies barrel racing. There will be a quarter throw and a calf scramble which are always entertaining, she said.

“We have a good attendance Friday night because it is family night. It also helps that we offer a military discount,” she said. The budget was set at $50,000, which covers everything from the shirts for the committee to advertising to facility rental. Davis said it is a worthy investment, because it brings people to Duncan. T-shirts and other souvenir items will be available to buy in the vendor area, which just helps a little with revenue. The overall goal is aimed at creating a positive environment within the community.

“Everything we do with this is positive,” she said. “The Ambucs help us out every year, with ticket taking at the door, to passing out our free programs. We buy them an Amtryke every year to give to a child. They also give to the Wounded Soldiers program.”

Featured on the entertainment roster this year is specialty act pro rodeo barrelman, Jim “Bob” Feller, along with bullfighters Jason Gibbs and Will O’Connell. This is Gibbs third year to hit the Stephens County arena, and O’Connell’s first.

Feller, 56, has been keeping rodeo fans entertained for 40 years. He wasn’t always in the barrel and actually competed in bull riding and saddle bronc events for three years. He found the entertainment of being a funny-man more enjoyable.

Gibbs, 37, is from Texas and has been a bullfighter for 13 years. He obtained his PRCA permit in 2010 and headed to Las Vegas that same year for the NFR, which he won the Benny Binion NFR Bucking Stock Sale Protection Match.

O’Connell, 26, is from Iowa and in 2007, he became a PRCA bullfighter. Notable achievements include a two-time earn as the Great Lakes Circuit Finals Bullfighter in 2010 and 2011, and in the top eight at the Dodge National Circuit Finals in 2006.

In addition to all this, is the traditional queen contest. Miss Rodeo Oklahoma Teen 2014, Lauren Elise Ortega Wade, 16, of Enid, is no stranger to Duncan. She will return for this year’s 25th anniversary celebration and Davis loves to promote her.

“She is a good role model for young girls. She was our queen and went on to become the Miss Rodeo Oklahoma Teen,” Davis said.

The queen contestants will be introduced at the Friday show. Saturday, they will spend the day at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, for the interviews and fashion show. They are also judged on their horsemanship. Each contestant will receive a private photo shoot at the museum. The rodeo committee provides each with a professional portrait as a gift.

Davis said that the queen portion was once based on ticket sales. That is no longer the case. They are asked to sell tickets, but winning the title is not based on the number of tickets sold.

She said for the past three years, the rules follow the Miss Rodeo Oklahoma guidelines, so the girls can compete at that level, if they choose. There are 10 contestants this year from around the state, ages 3 to 24. There will be four categories, Princess, Sweetheart, Teen and Miss, with the latter being the overall queen. Davis only has a partial list of those named queens over the years and would like any queens to contact her so she can add them to the list if they are missing from her records.

“I would love to have a complete archive of the Chisholm Trail Stampede queens,” she said.

Over the years, there have been numerous trick riders and other forms of rodeo entertainment, but this year, the Freedom Riders, a team of 25,  will perform for the first time, Davis said. They will be carrying flags that survived the Moore tornado when a horse trailer they were in was destroyed.

Stock contractor is Rafter H Rodeo Livestock out of Tahlequah. It has a reputation of being a successful contractor and considered one of the best horse breeders in the nation, Davis said. In 2012, they brought the bull “Vertical Exit” to the event, which was deemed “the rankest” bull.

Of course, Davis said, a  rodeo isn’t complete without an announcer, and returning is T.C. Long, from Texas,  who has been in and around an arena since he was five-years-old. He gave his first shot at calling when he was 14. After he graduated from high school, he officially began his career as a rodeo announcer. He has a list of credits to his “true calling” which include five-time UPRA Announcer of the Year.

As for the Kentucky Derby, Davis said she’s always wanted a TV inside the Expo Center lobby so people could watch it at their leisure, but she’s never been able to secure one for the day. If anyone would like to loan one for this year’s big celebration, it would be appreciated, she said.

“I used to joke that I couldn’t leave home until it was over, but I’m so busy with planning and keeping things running smoothly, I don’t have time to watch it.”

There is still available vendor space for inside the Expo Center for the two nights. For information about the rodeo or vendor availability, call Davis at 580-467-2800.

Stampede Fact: Stephens County Crime Stoppers originally started the rodeo as a fundraiser for its organization. They will be recognized during the rodeo. Those original committee members were Ken Patrick, president; Bo Bowden, coordinator; Gene Brown, Paul Crist, Byron Dean, Mickey Hawkins, Bob Hill, Lynn Latham, Carol Latham, Gary Ledford, Jim McLain, Virgil Parks, Ken Austin, Dr. John Minson, Mike Sellers, Tom Montgomery, Wayne Watts, Mark Crutcher and Chad Williams.

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