LOVINGTON, N.M. â€“ If Jake McClure Arena had a trophy case, it would be full of awards for this yearâ€™s Lea County Fair and Rodeo.
The annual event, now in its 80th year, is a two-time nominee for Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year, having received those bids each of the past two years.
â€śTo be mentioned in the same breath as Cheyenne (Wyo.) and Pendleton (Ore.) is an honor,â€ť said Greg Massey, chairman of the rodeo committee that is part of the Lea County Fair Board. â€śFor me, I realize how blessed I am to be part of a great event and to get to work with such a wonderful, hard-working group of volunteers.â€ť
Nominations are based on voting by PRCA members, and only five events in each category are among the finalists. Since the award was created in 1993, only six rodeos have earned the title; of those, Cheyenne has won the award 16 times. Other finalists in 2014 were Ogden, Utah, and Salinas, Calif.
â€śTo be nominated is an honor itself,â€ť said Corey Helton, the fair board chairman. â€śWhen you look at the list of rodeos in our category, it says a lot about the work our rodeo committee has been doing.â€ť
The volunteer committee is just one piece of an award-winning puzzle for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5-Saturday, Aug. 8. It takes amazing talent to make an event like this click off so well:
â€śWe are fortunate to work with the best professionals in rodeo,â€ť Massey said. â€śIâ€™m surprised Andy hasnâ€™t won Announcer of the Year yet. He does everything that we ask for and is excellent at it.â€ť
It takes that kind of trust to produce such a top-flight event, but it also takes a dedicated group of volunteers to make it happen in Lea County. The committee works together all year to showcase the rodeo to a region that knows the sport well.
â€śWeâ€™ve all shared in the vision of what our rodeo in Lovington could be,â€ť Massey said. â€śFor our committee to do what weâ€™ve done is because weâ€™ve had great support. Stephanie Rice and the office personnel over the last several years have done such a wonderful job of taking care of the behind-the-scenes things that no one ever knew about to make it easy for us to focus on what we needed to do and not be concerned about all the other details.â€ť
Itâ€™s an award-winning combination.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the July 2015 issue of Womenâ€™s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is republished on this site with the approval of the WPRN.
Meghan Johnson has never really considered moving to Colorado, but competing in the Centennial State has been pretty nice.
â€śMy mom always tells me I should claim the Mountain States Circuit,â€ť said Johnson, a recent graduate from New Mexico State University.
Colorado has been pretty profitable for her already this year. She won the title at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in January, pocketing more than $12,000; she added more than $1,500 by winning the Elizabeth Stampede the first weekend in June.
More importantly, she and her mount, Nellie Laveaux, rounded the cloverleaf pattern in an arena-record time of 15.87 seconds, shattering the previous mark.
â€śI didnâ€™t know anything about it until Randi Timmons told me after my run,â€ť Johnson said of Timmons, a WPRA member from Elizabeth. â€śWe got it by two-tenths this year, so that was pretty exciting.â€ť
Johnson ran in slack on the morning of Sunday, June 7, when the arena was a tad bit muddy. Fortunately for her, Timmons knew the history and how the ground handled moisture better than most ladies in the field.
â€śRandi told me not to worry about it and that the ground was really good when it was wet,â€ť said Johnson, of Deming, N.M. â€śWe were 40th out in slack, but it seemed like the dirt was getting better as more girls were running on it.
â€śI just didnâ€™t hold back.â€ť
Neither did Nellie, a 14-year-old sorrel mare, who has proven to be solid in any kind of setup â€“ from a small indoor pen like Denver Coliseum or a large outdoor arena like in Elizabeth.
â€śShe doesnâ€™t like it when itâ€™s wet,â€ť Johnson said. â€śThe ground in Elizabeth was muddy, but there werenâ€™t any puddles, so I worked out well for me to run her.â€ť
As of the second week of June, she was eighth in the world standings with a little more than $37,000. She has parlayed some solid runs to earn big checks in San Angelo, Texas, and Tucson, Ariz., along with several other paydays. In fact, she also won in Silver City, N.M., and placed in Clovis, N.M., the opening weekend in June.
Itâ€™s all sort of a whirlwind for Johnson, who is just a few weeks removed from graduation ceremonies at New Mexico State in Las Cruses, where she earned a bachelorâ€™s degree in agriculture business. A two-time College National Finals Rodeo qualifier, she opted to spend the final semester of her senior year focusing on school and ProRodeo.
â€śMy family has always been big on education,â€ť she said. â€śI always took school seriously. I hustled for four years so I could be on the road. Plus itâ€™s nice to have that fall-back option.â€ť
Right now, though, she wonâ€™t need it. She and fellow barrel racer Ann Thompson have a tentative schedule in place and plan to make a run at Johnsonâ€™s first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
â€śSheâ€™s entering for me, and she knows I donâ€™t want to haul very much,â€ť Johnson said. â€śIâ€™ not going to be a crazy person out on the road. Weâ€™re going to try to pick the ones we think we can do good at and make them count.â€ť
Sheâ€™s done pretty well at that so far. By putting together a solid winter run, she has set herself up to chase Las Vegas through the rest of the regular season.
â€śI wasnâ€™t really wanting to go this hard,â€ť said Johnson, who credits Hi Pro Feeds, Biocare Animal Products, Arizona Oxy-Gen and Juli Miller Wade Saddle Pads for helping her get up and down the rodeo trail. â€śMy goal was to be in the top 30. Winning Denver got the ball rolling down the hill faster. It got a lot of people excited among my family and friends, and theyâ€™re pushing us to go for it. It opened a lot of doors.
â€śIt also put a lot of confidence in me and my horse that we can do it against all these tough girls.â€ť
The way barrel racing is now, there are tough girls and great horses all across the map. Now that sheâ€™s in the top 10, Johnson wants to stay there. That means stretching her comfort zone and reaching out to new places and new venues. The goal, though, is worth it.
Of course, it helps to have confidence in oneself and in the teammate that seems to make things happen. Thatâ€™s the case for Johnson and Nellie.
â€śSheâ€™s handled everything really good so far, and weâ€™re taking a lot of care into her,â€ť she said. â€śWeâ€™re trying to fit in as many breaks into the schedule as we can. With her, itâ€™s kind of a crucial thing. Iâ€™m getting good on my schedule so she can rest as much as she can.
â€śIf I can stay out of her way, she runs a good pattern.â€ť
Theyâ€™re both pretty good at what they do. They wouldnâ€™t be in this position without it. They might just have the swagger of a champion; at least Nellie does.
â€śThis year, sheâ€™s become more of a diva,â€ť Johnson said. â€śSheâ€™s become a little ornery. She used to be just really sweet. I think they know when theyâ€™re doing good.â€ť
LOVINGTON, N.M. â€“ From rising stars to an â€śAmerican Idolâ€ť to a Rock â€™nâ€™ Roll Hall of Fame inductee, the 2015 Lea County Fair and Rodeo will have the perfect mix for fairgoers.
â€śI think our lineup is exciting and is holding to the standards that weâ€™ve developed over the past few years,â€ť said Corey Helton, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board.
Helton and the rest of the folks in southeastern New Mexico should be excited. Not only does the exposition feature a top-rated carnival, a world-class rodeo and amazing local fixtures, the fair also has six amazing acts set to perform through its nine nights at the Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington:
â€śI think theyâ€™ll all be great shows,â€ť Helton said.
Richochet kicks off the fair with a special show on the opening Saturday night. The country band has been around for nearly two decades and still boasts of being the only country artist to chart the national anthem. Richochetâ€™s first No. 1 hit, â€śDaddyâ€™s Money,â€ť showcases the bandâ€™s harmonies that theyâ€™ve carried with them since the beginning.
After the Lea County Xtreme Bulls on Tuesday, the fair will celebrate Texas Country music with chart-topper Cody Johnson. He will provide a spark to the week filled with great entertainment.
â€śI like the crowd to sing along, yell or whatever makes them feel part of the show,â€ť Johnson said on his website. â€śI love big crowds because of the energy and showmanship I can exhibit.â€ť
That likely will be the case at the fair in Lovington, which has seen significant crowds over the last several years. A big reason for that is the economical admission price; for just $8 ($6 for children), anyone can enjoy all the festivities on the fairgrounds.
â€śYou pay one price for the day, and you get to enjoy it all: the shows, the exhibits, the daily entertainers, the rodeo, the concerts and have the opportunity to take in all the carnival rides,â€ť Helton said. â€śThereâ€™s a lot to our fair, and I think that makes it attractive.â€ť
Crowder will be the featured piece for Christian music night. Raised in east Texas, David Crowder has loved to share his faith through music.
Country artists Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney first met in December 2012. Within a year, the duo had released its first single, â€ś19 You + Me.â€ť They have been nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year in the Academy of Country Music Awards.
â€śCountry music fans are extremely passionate and loyal,â€ť Smyers said in an interview with SheKnows.com. â€śWe are extremely thankful for the support the country community has shown for us and canâ€™t wait to share more of the journey with them.â€ť
McCreery won Season 10 of â€śAmerican Idolâ€ť when he was 17 years old. Since then, he has sold more than 2.5 million albums. Two singles from his inaugural album, â€śI Love you This Bigâ€ť and â€śThe Trouble with Girls,â€ť have been certified platinum.
Allman was one of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band and also has had an amazing solo career. In addition to singing and playing for the band, he also wrote many of their hits, including â€śDreams,â€ť â€śWhipping Post,â€ť â€śPlease Call Home,â€ť â€śMelissaâ€ť and â€śMidnight Rider.â€ť
â€śWe seem to always bring some of the big names on the final Saturday night,â€ť Helton said. â€śWe always want to end our fair and rodeo with a bang, and I think weâ€™re doing that this year.â€ť
DODGE CITY, Kan. â€“ While it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community and more to put on the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.
â€śThereâ€™s no possible way this event goes on without the number of volunteers and the great support we get from this community,â€ť said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual event. â€śMuch of everything that happens with our rodeo is because of the volunteers who devote their time and energy to its success.â€ť
Theyâ€™re all working for a spectacular week of rodeo starting with an evening of Xtreme Bulls on Tuesday, July 28, and five performances of Roundup from Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2; all performances begin at 7:45 p.m. at Roundup Arena.
The work by the volunteers is a key reason why Dodge Cityâ€™s rodeo was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2012. In fact, only office manager Elaine Gall and a handful of ticket-window staff members are the only paid employees.
All the rest of the work that goes into making Roundup a successful venture is done community members who hold full-time jobs and who devote their spare time.
â€śWe work year-round,â€ť Trotter said. â€śFrom working with our dedicated sponsors to getting the arena set up, it takes a lot of man-hours every year to set everything up so the fans can experience our rodeo.
â€śRoundup was established years ago as a community event, and it takes place during Dodge City Days. We get fans from all over the state and from all over the country who come to our rodeo ever year, and we want them to have a great experience year after year.â€ť
From the ticket-takers at the front game to the person who sold the hamburgers at the concessions stand, virtually every ounce of labor is one of love by people who care about Roundup.
â€śIf you buy a Pepsi or a beer, a volunteer has served you,â€ť he said. â€śAll the behind-the-scenes things that happen are done primarily by people who donate their time.
â€śWhen it comes to our rodeo, we have the top professional cowboys and cowgirls in the world who come to Dodge City. I credit the people of this community who make it happen.â€ť
That includes the local businesses that support the event financially. In rodeo, cowboys and cowgirls compete in order to make a living. In addition to paying bills, dollars earned also count as championship points â€“ the contestants in each event who earn the most money at seasonâ€™s end are crowned world champions.
Roundup offers local incentives of more than $160,000. That, combined with contestantsâ€™ entry fees, makes up one of the largest purses in ProRodeo; through the years, it has remained one of the top 25 events in the country.
â€śWe get support from more than 100 businesses, nearly all of which are local,â€ť Gall said. â€śI think it says a lot about how those businesses understand the type of event our rodeo is to this community. Weâ€™re very blessed by the local support we get.â€ť
LOVINGTON, N.M. â€“ Much has changed around the Lea County Fair and Rodeo since the last time Cody Sosebee was the entertainer inside Jake McClure Arena.
â€śThe Lovington rodeo has a lot of chrome on it now and is really bright and shiney,â€ť said Sosebee, who will be the rodeo clown and entertainer during the five nights of rodeo action, beginning with the Lea County Xtreme Bulls on Tuesday, Aug. 4, and continuing through the full rodeo performances from Wednesday, Aug. 5-Saturday, Aug. 8. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
â€śItâ€™s a lot different now than it was then. The rodeo has finally been recognized as one of the best, and they have Xtreme Bulls and Pete Carrâ€™s bucking stock. Itâ€™s really a special rodeo.â€ť
That it is. The Lea County rodeo has been nominated as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year each of the past two seasons. Thatâ€™s quite an honor for an event thatâ€™s in the same class as the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days and the Pendleton (Ore.) Roundup.
â€śThatâ€™s a super good committee, and you can tell theyâ€™ve worked their butts off to make a good rodeo even better,â€ť he said. â€śWhen they came to tell me they were excited to have me coming back, it really was a great thing for me. I love that rodeo.â€ť
The rodeo committee isnâ€™t the only entity thatâ€™s been honored with nominations and awards. Sosebee is a five-time nominee for PRCA Clown of the Year and a two-time finalist for Comedy Act of the Year. He will be a big part of the action that is orchestrated by Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, the primary livestock producer thatâ€™s been nominated for Stock Contractor of the Year in 2013-14.
â€śYou get to work with an A team of personnel and an A team list of stock,â€ť he said. â€śAnytime you get to work with people who excel in their field, it only makes me that much better.â€ť
In addition to his clowning nomination, the former competitor also has been nominated for the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year two of the past three seasons. But thereâ€™s much more to Sosebee than meets the eye. Over his lifetime, heâ€™s competed in nearly every rodeo event possible and was at the top of his game in bareback riding.
Itâ€™s part of the life growing up in a family that was heavily involved in rodeo. His father was a pickup man, so Sosebee has been part of the sport as long as he can remember.
â€śI got into clowning by accident by filling in for guys,â€ť said Sosebee, who also owns a barbecue restaurant in his hometown of Charleston, Ark., just 25 miles east of Fort Smith, Ark. â€śI didnâ€™t know where I was going to go with my rodeo career when I quit riding barebacks, and it turned into a good living. I get to see the world.
â€śI live in a community with one four-way stop, and I get to go to a lot of great places where as soon as you pull into town, you are considered a rock star for a week.â€ť
A born competitor, the clown has made the adjustments he needed to get the true fix after a lifetime of being part of the contest.
â€śIâ€™ve always been a competitor in anything I did, from football to basketball to when I was in freestyle bullfighting,â€ť he said. â€śI miss putting my hand in the rigginâ€™ and nodding my head to be 80 points to win the rodeo, but Iâ€™m a realist. Iâ€™m 43 years old. While most of the guys I rodeoed with have slowed down and have found jobs, I get to be in the arena and get to make a living in rodeo doing something I love.â€ť
Sosebee also plays to his strengths. Bigger than many in the game, he showcases a true athleticism that is rarely seen among men of his stature. Itâ€™s comedy at the purest level.
â€śHaving the ability to laugh at myself is probably my biggest strength,â€ť he said. â€śI donâ€™t take anything too serious. When Iâ€™m watching a comedian, the funniest thing I see is when theyâ€™re honestly open and having a good time. I want the fans to see that Iâ€™m a real person and Iâ€™m having fun, and they can have fun with me.â€ť
Thatâ€™s why Sosebee has excelled as one of the premier rodeo clowns in the game. Thatâ€™s why the volunteer committee is bringing him to town. Itâ€™s another key reason the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is always at the top of the game.