Special to the Free Press
Bright lights will again be shining this week at the oldest consecutive rodeo in Kansas.
Likewise, this is one of the longest running professional rodeos in the world, and, as importantly, has the most unique heritage in the sport of rodeo.
Continuing the tradition of rodeo at its best, the 79th annual Flint Hills Rodeo is set for 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 2-4, in the historic arena at the north edge of Strong City, Kansas, according to Buck Bailey, Chase County rancher and president of the Flint Hills Rodeo Association.
The richest rodeo legacy surrounding the Flint Hills Rodeo was started 79 years ago by E.C. Roberts at his home west of Strong City.
It was 1937, when Roberts, his sons and daughter decided to have a rodeo following their love for riding wild horses.
Neighbors from nearby and even further distance came, and it was such a success, the rodeo turned into an annual affair and training ground for what would be the famous Roberts Rodeo Family.
Ken and Gerald Roberts were multiple times world champions in bull riding and bronc riding, as well as collecting all-around championships, while daughter Marjorie was a champion cowgirl bronc rider, known for her trick riding ability as well.
When the senior Roberts moved to a home at the north edge of Strong City, he built an arena right out in his front yard, and the rodeo continues there today.
While the list of attractions for this year’s rodeo sanctioned again by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association is most extensive, a “special noteworthiness is the return of Cervi Brothers Rodeo Co., Padroni, Colo., to supply the livestock for this year’s rodeo,” Bailey said.
“With more than 800 head of bucking stock, the rodeo company can produce an exciting rodeo with the best bucking stock in the world,” Bailey said. “In the past 47 years, Cervi Championship Rodeo Co. has had more livestock selected for the National Finals Rodeo than any other stock contractors in the business.”
Traditional rodeo events include bareback bronc riding, tie down calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, and bull riding,
Barrel racing with Women’s Profession Rodeo Association riders from throughout the country add fast horses, pretty girls, color and glamour to each performance.
“This year’s Strong City rodeo is part of the RAM Series, and the All American Series with year-end awards to top contestants,” Bailey said.
Rodeo spectators have been encouraged to “get there early” all three evenings, to go through the Western Trade Show, opening at 5:30 p.m., with a complete offering of cowboy-related-apparel, tack, collectibles, and special memorabilia.
Announcers and events
In a multiyear-return engagement, Roger Mooney, Ellijay, Ga., will announce this year’s rodeo from his big black and white Paint Horse called Flash.
Mooney’s wife, Ashley, joins in the production side of the rodeo providing the music, setting the atmosphere for “broncs, bulls and babes, the greatest show on dirt.”
Buckaroo/Buckerette Stick Horse Rodeos, for youngsters 10 and under, at 6 p.m. all three days. All children 12 and under will be admitted free to Thursday evening’s performance of the rodeo.
Entries are already closed, but eight cowboys and cowgirls, ages 5 to 7, will “buck out on runaway sheep” from special chutes in the Mutton Busting competition.
Calf scramble has also been planned. Thursday’s event will be for youth 6 to 8 years of age, while Friday will be for nine to 11-year-olds, and Saturday, the big kids, 12-14, will be chasing ribbons on calves’ tails.
Friday’s performance has been designated Military Appreciation Night with special recognition to those serving for the country’s freedom and privileges. Saturday will be Tough Enough To Wear Pink Night as awareness and benefit for cancer afflicted.
Funnyman Brian Potter will be coming from Newville, Ala., to entertain the crowd, and work in and out of the clown barrel, assisting bullfighters in saving fallen cowboys from injury in the big bad bull riding climax rodeo event each night.
Most respected by champion bull riders around the world, this year’s bullfighters are Daniel Dyson, Dayton, Texas, and Zach Arthur, Bastrop, Texas.
Parade and dances
Always a major attraction for the Flint Hills Rodeo is the 2 p.m. Saturday parade starting at Swope Park in Cottonwood Falls, and ending at the Strong City rodeo grounds.
Jimmy Barr, lifelong Chase County rancher and announcer of the Flint Hills Rodeo in the early years, will be recognized while serving as the grand marshall of the parade.
Again, Cervi Rodeo Co. bucking horses will be driven down the highway by rodeo committee members and stock contracting personnel, certainly the parade highlight.
It’ll be semblance of the Emmett Roberts family and Flint Hills Rodeo Association bringing bucking stock off winter pasture to town for the rodeo a half century and more ago.
“Special Western activities are planned at the rodeo grounds immediately following the parade up to start time of the rodeo,” Bailey said.
Free dances featuring Tanner Dirks Band are set to follow Friday and Saturday evening performances for those with tickets from attending the rodeo.
Information is available at flinthillsrodeo.org.