CLAREMORE, Okla. – By Ted Harbin – David Petty was in shock and couldn’t think of the words to say; his wife, Dawn, couldn’t stop crying. Bob Morton just grinned and took it all in.
Their hearts and souls – countless man-hours – have gone into the labor of love they call the Will Rogers Stampede. Claremore’s rodeo had just been named the 2014 small rodeo of the year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, determined by a vote of the organization’s membership and announced during the PRCA’s annual awards banquet on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas, held in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“This is a tremendous honor for us,” said Petty, chairman of the volunteer committee that organizes the rodeo every Memorial Day weekend. “We have a small group of people who work really hard every year to put on this rodeo for our community.
“Two years ago, we hired Pete Carr and his crew to produce the rodeo, and that’s made a major difference in the rodeo. It feels like all our years of hard work are paying off, and the people of Rogers County and surrounding areas can enjoy a world-class rodeo right here in Claremore, Oklahoma. It’s humbling to share this national spotlight with the Daddy of ’em All, Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, and rodeos like Deadwood (S.D.) Days and the San Antonio Stock Show.”
PRCA members felt the same way. Rodeos are classified in four categories: small, medium, large and large indoor. The small-rodeo category encompasses more than 400 PRCA rodeos nationwide and allows the smaller committees to be judged with events of the same size.
“We’ve been blessed to have produced that rodeo the last couple of years,” said Pete Carr, owner of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo. “That’s one of the hardest working committees in rodeo, and I’m glad to see they were recognized this year. Those people have earned that award.”
Carr was nominated for stock contractor of the year, while other pieces of the 2014 Stampede also were recognized: Sandy Gwatney was nominated for secretary of the year, while entertainer John Harrison earned the Coors Man in the Can and the Comedy Act of the Year awards.
Days later, Miss Rodeo Oklahoma Lauren Heaton became the first Oklahoma cowgirl to be crowned Miss Rodeo America; she, too, was part of the pageantry that is the Will Rogers Stampede.
“Claremore was part of my 10-day Oklahoma run,” she said. “That’s such a great rodeo that had John and Sandy Gwatney working with Pete Carr; all three of them are working the finals. John Harrison was the clown there.
“That shows me that Claremore is putting on a phenomenal rodeo. They know what they need to do and where they need to be headed. I’m really excited to see Claremore win that award.”