The Garden City Telegram
6/8/2013
SOUTHWEST LIFE

Rodeo family

Becky Malewitz/Telegram Mike Ketterling, Beef Empire Days Rodeo Committee president, and 18-year rodeo volunteer Will Johnson take a short break from setting up pens that hold this year's rodeo livestock.
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Volunteers work hard together to make PRCA event possible.
By BECKY MALEWITZ
bmalewitz@gctelegram.com

It's late Tuesday afternoon. Beef Empire Days volunteers have just finished taking gates down from the Live Show earlier that day. Now, it's time for rodeo volunteers to get to work building pens behind the arena that will hold the PRCA Rodeo's live stock arriving from South Dakota in the early hours Wednesday morning.

That's just one of the many things on the volunteers' checklist for the next few days.

Walking up to a group of rodeo volunteers is like entering a family reunion. There are stories, jokes and smiles all around.

"Everyone on this committee, if something would happen they would have so many people trying to help out. It's unbelievable," said Mike Ketterling, Rodeo Committee President. "When one person goes down, there's several other people that will be there to help pick them up."

It's that atmosphere that has volunteers like Diane Overland and her husband, Keith, coming back every year to make sure that one of Garden City's few professional sporting event goes off without a hitch.

In fact, Diane has celebrated her past 20 birthdays volunteering for the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo.

Thursday marked this year's opening night and Diane's 61st birthday.

What keeps her coming back each year?

"Stupidity," she joked, making everyone around her laugh the way one does with close friends and family. She then added, "We've been in it so long, and we enjoy it. You meet a lot of really good people from all walks of life, and not just the people here but the people associated with other rodeos. You make lifelong friends."

There's a general consensus among volunteers that even though the hours are long and the work is hard, it is worth it to bring the professional rodeo to Garden City's residents every year.

"The group we have now is an exceptional group," Ketterling said. "Everybody kind of knows what's going on. That's why everybody works together so well to get the things done that need to be done."

The rodeo gets 25 to 30 volunteers each year, but there is always room for more.

"We're always looking for new blood because some of us are getting old." Overland said.

Volunteering for the rodeo doesn't start or end when the cowboys and cowgirls come to town. Volunteers on the rodeo committee meet monthly throughout the year to discuss fundraising options to ensure the capital to bring the PRCA to Beef Empire Days.

For those not as familiar with livestock, there are plenty of jobs to keep people busy.

"It's more work than most people realize, and it's a lot more money than most people realize," Tim Joyce, rodeo committee vice president said. "You know, everybody thinks this comes together in two weeks. We basically work at this year round."

Like any family with ups and downs, the members of the BED rodeo volunteer family have seen it all.

"We've been through births, deaths, divorce, marriages, near death experiences," Overland said. "There are very few things we haven't been through, and your rodeo family's always there to help you out. That is a wonderful, wonderful experience to have."

Fifteen-year volunteering veteran Lucky Luckett takes a week of vacation from work each year to help his rodeo family.

"We argue, we fuss, but we get what we need to done," he said.

The long hours and hard work can cause some tension, but through it all, the camaraderie is present.

"Nobody likes each other during rodeo, but after the rodeo, we all love each other again," Overland said. "So that's OK."