BEEF EMPIRE DAYS: Volunteers, participants key to rodeo's success.
By BRETT MARSHALL
s a high schooler with rodeo interest, Mike Ketterling can remember the early days of the Garden City Beef Empire Days Rodeo.
It was his high school counselor, Hap Larson, who was one of the founders of the BED rodeo, and Ketterling enjoyed watching the inner workings of the big Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event that came to western Kansas early each summer.
From those early years, and the intervening ones when he spent six years (1985-1991) in the Marine Corps, there was always that rodeo interest inside just waiting to help.
"I think our rodeo is one of the biggest events of the year in Garden City, and we just want to have the people here come out to see what a great event this is," said Ketterling, the current president of the BED Rodeo. "We've tried to adapt it to where it's a show that appeals to all ages, and to those who don't know much about rodeos, and for those who have been around them their whole lives."
This year's rodeo, which will run June 5 to 7, will begin with an 8 a.m. slack competition on June 5 in which more than 100 competitors will vie for more than $125,000 in prize money in a variety of events.
Each of the three nights, the main rodeo event will begin at 7 p.m. at the Finney County Fairgrounds Grandstand Arena, which can seat more than 4,000 fans. The event is celebrating its 27th anniversary, and there's plenty of action for rodeo fans to view.
"There's the big events like the bull riding, which it seems like everybody enjoys," Ketterling said. "They want to see if anybody can ride them, or if anybody gets hurt. It's always been one of the big events of a rodeo."
But there's also the Muttin' Bustin' event, which will have 10 youngsters attempt to ride goats each night. Registration for that event is underway at Crazy Horse, located on North Campus Drive and the U.S. Highway 83 bypass.
Ketterling also said that the popular kids' Boot Scramble event will return. Last year, more than 100 youngsters participated in an event in which they run to a place and try to find their own boots in an area where everybody else's boots also are located.
"The kids had a lot of fun with that one," Ketterling said of the 2013 inaugural event. "We think it's the kind of event that everyone can really enjoy, and the kids liked being in the arena."
Each of the three nights, the specialty act will come from Thomas Garcilazo of Fontana, Calif. In the rodeo world, he's the best of the best, having been voted the 2013 PRCA Specialty Act of the Year.
"We saw him in Dodge City (Boot Hill Days) and decided we'd like to get him for our event, so we're very excited," Ketterling said. "He's got some amazing things to his act, and I think everybody will enjoy him."
Ketterling and his wife, Patricia, began volunteering when they returned to Garden City in the early 1990s, and then about eight years ago, just naturally became part of the volunteer group.
"They put in a lot of hours, not just in the three days of the rodeo, but it's a year-round event we work on," Ketterling said.
During the rodeo itself, Ketterling will find himself moving from place to place, making sure there are enough workers, and sometimes will jump in at the last minute to help out.
"It's a little bit of everything," Ketterling said. "Just trying to make sure everything runs smooth. We have a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work, too."
Ketterling, himself, had competed in bareback riding when he was in high school and began his service to the sport when he was president of the Garden City Rodeo Club.
"I had just one event and just stuck with it," Ketterling said of his competitive days. "Dabbled in the bull riding briefly, but it wasn't for me. Bareback was just a little safer. I just never had an interest in the roping events, either."
His wife serves as the rodeo treasurer, along with Diane Overland, and also is the rodeo secretary.
"They just try to make sure everything's situated with the money," Ketterling said of his wife and Overland. "It takes a lot to put on an event of this size. We do a lot of fundraisers through the years and work with our sponsors, who without them, we wouldn't be able to have this kind of rodeo."
Ketterling also had high praise for the rodeo's stock producers, the Anchor K Ranch of Pierre, S.D., who will be making their 12th consecutive appearance at the BED event.
"They've started their own breeding program with both horses and bulls, and they have some of the best stock in the world," Ketterling said of the Korkow family, who have been in the rodeo business since the late 1940s. "They've got baby colts up to today's big horses that are being ridden. They're just as good as some of the big contractors. I'd go watch them anywhere if I was close. They've always done right by us."
When he's not volunteering his time for the BED Rodeo, Ketterling is handling his duties as an assistant foreman with Lario Well and Gas, a Garden City company. He's been doing that for nearly two years.
"They give me the time to be able to help with the rodeo, and it is really nice," Ketterling said.
And while the focus is on three days of June each year, Ketterling and his contingent of volunteers know that the success of the event is because of the year-round commitment to bring one of the best sporting events of the year to Garden City.
Schedule of Events
Thurs., June 5
8:30 a.m.--Rodeo slack competition and PWRA Breakaway roping. No admission charge.
9 a.m. — Queen Horsemanship, Fairgrounds Arena
7 p.m. — First performance, Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo (Family Night)
Fri., June 6
10 a.m. — Queen Style Show & Brunch, 4-H Building
7 p.m. — Second performance Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo, "Are You Tough Enough to Wear Pink?"; Breast cancer
Sat., June 7
7 p.m. — Final performance, Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo, Special salute to our Veterans and Active Military
Ticket Prices: $7 general admission; $12 reserved bench back seat; $16 reserved bucket seat.
Family Night Special: $10 (2 adults and children under the age of 9 years); Military (with military ID) are admitted free.