Working man’s rodeo association Wyoming Rodeo Association rebuilds to capture long history
In the 1960s, the Wyoming Rodeo Association (WRA) was formed to provide a place for Wyoming’s numerous cowboys and cowgirls to compete in the state’s favorite sport.
“WRA is a working man’s association,” says Gus Cross, WRA president. “We’re not a pro rodeo association, and we want to provide an opportunity for people who have jobs and families and can’t be on the road full-time.”
Cross says the association was incorporated in 1963 and held some of their first sanctioned rodeos in Saratoga, Encampment and Rawlins.
“Today, we co-sanction rodeos with the Colorado Rodeo Association and Nebraska Rodeo Association,” he comments.
A look back
“In the early 1970s, WRA was at full swing, offering rodeos to cowgirls and cowboys from the Tetons all the way to eastern Wyoming,” says WRA Secretary Sarah Herold. “WRA was a place for those looking to compete and have a good time.”
She notes, nearly 60 years later, the rodeo lifestyle is still strong, and WRA continues to uphold its foundations of respect, pride and community.
“WRA has long been an association that cowboys and cowgirls can commit to by improving their talent,” she explains. “Rodeo isn’t something many contestants do only on the weekends. Rather, participating in rodeos is a way of life, and it is cherished.”
Herold continues, “Rodeo runs in the blood of Wyomingites, and that is why the WRA is working hard to be back on the map for 2018 summer rodeos.”
After a challenging few years, Cross notes WRA is striving to rebuild its reputation.
“Over the years, WRA has become a lot less talked about in the State of Wyoming,” Herold says.
She adds, challenges, ranging from new regulations, societal changes and the economic downturn have plagued WRA, but the passion of WRA members – past and present, continues to be seen.
The last two years, a state finals event has not been held, but this year, WRA is committed to a year-end championship event on Sept. 22-23 in Torrington.
“We’re working to fire up our membership and hold a really good finals event for people to compete in,” Cross says.
Herold adds, “Our biggest goal is to have a really great finals this year.”
While the number of rodeos they sanction or co-sanction each year changes, Cross comments this year, they hope to be involved with almost 40 rodeos.
Four rodeos will be organized and hosted solely by WRA, including the 71st Annual Hulett Rodeo, Encampment Woodchoppers Jamboree Rodeo, Saratoga Rodeo and the Carbon County Stampede Rodeo.
The small size of many Wyoming communities, as well as the distance between rodeos, can be a challenge for WRA, and Herold says it can be difficult to fill a rodeo program with competitors.
She adds, “We’re really working to increase our membership this year. We’ve rebuilt our website and added a social media component, with a Facebook page and more, to reach out.”
WRA has also worked to re-connect with its past members, by sending membership information to former WRA members.
“WRA wants to do everything possible to make the rodeo community succeed in the State of Wyoming,” says Herold.
“Our neighboring states have also been really helpful,” Herold says. “We’ve reached out and will be co-sanctioning every possible rodeo with Colorado Pro Rodeo Association and Nebraska State Rodeo Association.”
The opportunity to co-sanction rodeos helps WRA overcome some challenges and offer more rodeo opportunities.
“WRA is a great rodeo association because we can co-sanction other events, which means contestants can earn points to compete in the state finals of Colorado and Nebraska, as well as Wyoming,” she explains. “This gives our members the opportunity to participate in the year-end finals rodeo for each state. Winnings at these rodeos include cash, saddles, buckles and, of course, bragging rights.”
As they work to grow, Herold also notes she is working to build relationships with county fairs around the state to enhance rodeo opportunities for WRA members.
“It is important to not only the WRA but other associations that the reputation of the sport stays intact and that rodeos continue to thrive throughout the United States,” Herold says. “Rodeo is a way of life and a passion that many cowboys and cowgirls crave and will never give up on.”
Herold says the friendships and competition enjoyed by rodeo competitors is part of the lifeblood of Wyoming and runs deep throughout our state’s history, which is why WRA and rebuilding the association is important.
“We’re continuing to grow and develop WRA,” Herold emphasizes. “WRA had hundreds of members in the 1970s, and we’re looking forward to returning the association to the glory and reputation that it once had.”
Learn more about the Wyoming Rodeo Association by visiting wyomingrodeoassociation.com.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.