By RON PRESTON
The Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo is one of the biggest annual events to take place in Abilene each year. The rodeo lasts for four nights, the first weekend in August each year, but it requires a year long preparation to produce those fun filled, exciting four nights annually.
The responsibility of that preparation lands square on the shoulders of 27- member Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo committee.
The committee, made up of entirely volunteers, spends countless hours preparing for the third largest rodeo in the state of Kansas. It takes all year to finalize the production, regardless of time spent by each volunteer, and it takes everybody doing their part to make the rodeo successful.
“The committee works on the rodeo 12 months a year,” Chairman Jerry Marsteller said. “We meet monthly to discuss what’s going to happen at the next rodeo, it’s a year long process.”
The main group is broken down into sub-committees, which will work on specific areas such as the contract personnel, concessions, the golf tournament and anything else pertaining to putting on the rodeo.
The cowboy golf tournament is scheduled for Friday, Aug 2 at Great Life Chisholm Trail Golf Course beginning at 8 a.m.
“Our committee chooses our contract personnel, we choose who we want, like Sammy Andrews is our stock contractor again this year. This is his 19th year in Abilene and we have been satisfied with him so that is why we stay with him,” Marsteller said.
“Some of us on the committee go to Las Vegas just about every year to a convention and they have a trade show. Any contract personnel involved with rodeo can have a booth there,” he said.
“We take our rodeo schedule in hand and just go visit and try to work out the dates, that’s the number one thing and of course money is another factor as well. This is how we come up with our bullfighter, clown and the main entertainment act,” Marsteller said.
“We also talk to people that we have worked with like Sammy Andrews and our announcer Mike Mathis to see what we can find out about those people. We rely on their recommendations a lot because they work with those people all the time,” he added.
There is three other pretty good-sized rodeo’s happening the same weekend as the Abilene rodeo. Rodeos in Dodge City, Phillipsburg and Sydney, Iowa are taking place during the same time period.
“We don’t have any thing to do with entries to the rodeo. All entries are done through the PRCA, and the cowboys can come in here and within 150 miles of travel they can be at three of four pretty good-sized rodeos during the weekend. They can make a little circuit out of it, which helps our numbers,” Marsteller said.
“Every town has their own little logo about their rodeo. Phillipsburg says they are the largest rodeo in the state, Pretty Prairie says they are the largest night time rodeo, we are just the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo,” Marsteller, committee member since 1991, chuckled.
The committee started working at the arena on the 20th and will work again Saturday, hit it again on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, everyday from then on until the rodeo is completed.
And then it starts all over again, preparing for the 69th annual Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo.
The Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo committee plans and produces the annual highlight to the Central Kansas Free Fair. Members are (left to right): Roger Watt, Stan Norman, Ray Marston, Larry Stillwagon, Scott Hildebrand, Ronnie Phillips, Bob Anderes, Jim Krueger, Jason Demars, Jeff Collie, Jerry Marsteller, Eric Dockins, Mike Adams, Bryce Norman, Cecil Hoffman, Mike Anderes, Nick Wiebert, Kregg Kohman, Will Gable, Bruce Kogler, Bob Sims, Steve Marston, Les Grey. (not pictured: Jim Anderes, Brandon Hall, Sidney Hammond, Cody Sims.