Eighty-seven years after its first performance in 1931, the WYO Rodeo is alive, well and kicking harder than ever. Many factors contribute to its success: the enthusiastic fans, the supportive community, the generous sponsors, the hard working volunteers and the rodeo contestants who come from everywhere to compete in one of their favorite rodeos.
But nothing would be possible were it not for the WYO Rodeo Board of Directors. Thirteen directors serve on the current board but it used to be larger. The very first board had 21 members. These were the charter members who organized the first rodeo 87 years ago.
Things remained this way for many years. Eventually, a small executive board was formed from the general membership to do most of the work. Then over time the general board membership dissipated until in the 1990s the executive board became the board of directors as we know it today.
What is remarkable about the 87-year evolution of the rodeo is how many community members have dedicated themselves to the WYO Rodeo cause — and still do!
Consider this. Of the 183 people who have been board members, four served more than 30 years. They were Robert Holstedt (36), Jack Ferren (34), Dr. John Crider (30) and W. A. (Big Bill) Eaton. These folks made a career out of serving the WYO Rodeo.
Further, 20 members served for more than 20 years. And 39 members served more 10 years. So, in summary, roughly 34 percent of everyone who has ever been a board member served for 10 years or more. That is a testimonial to the fact that the WYO Rodeo is a satisfying organization to belong to in spite of the fact that it is really a lot of work. It definitely provides job satisfaction to those that want to serve the Sheridan community.
There are a few other things you should know about the board. First of all, those who are selected to serve do so voluntarily with no compensation — other than the satisfaction of producing a great rodeo. That’s the payday. True, board members may get a few nice shirts to wear, and a jacket here or there, but that’s about it.
Basically, it costs money to be on the board. Members are required to be members of the Gold Buckle Club, for instance, and no members get free seats to the rodeo. They buy them. This has always been so. In fact, Jack Ferren, who was on the committee for 34 years, was on the waiting list for box seats (in the old grandstand) for 20 years before his name came up.
The work involved is very considerable. The board doesn’t meet just once a year and conjure up a rodeo. It’s a yearlong effort and planning for the next year begins almost the day after the last performance. The board meets once a month all year round, and more frequently as the rodeo gets closer. Members spend countless hours throughout the year working on special committees and projects. The board doesn’t contract out management functions. Members do the work themselves. They are hands on.
So why do they do it? Simple really. The WYO Rodeo was established in the first place to provide entertainment and economic development for the Sheridan community. That still holds true and all board members buy into that concept 100 percent. There’s no question about the entertainment value, and the WYO Rodeo brings in over $5 million to the Sheridan community.
So who are the current board members who continue the WYO Rodeo legacy? Officers are Nick Siddle, president; Sam Summers, vice president; Linda St. Clair, secretary; Larry Gold, treasurer. Other members are Billy Craft, Zane Garstad, Charlie Jorgenson, Lonnie Wright, Jim Wolfe, Hayden Heaphy, Larry Gold, Jess Sams and Frank Boley. The next time you see one of these dedicated folks, thank them for their service.
By the way, there is also a non-voting emeritus board made up of retired board members who continue to serve at the pleasure of the active board. Those members are Bruce King, Tracy Swanson, Frank Eaton, Bill Getter, Roger St. Clair, Doug Meier and Tom Ringley.
The reader should know that the WYO Board of Directors didn’t know about this article in advance. They don’t like to toot their own horn. But someone should once in a while — at least once every 87 years!
Tom Ringley is a Sheridan County commissioner and an emeritus board member of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo.