Sunday Stories: Sutherland Rodeo History

Early accounts tell of celebrating the 4th of July with a little “red fire water” in 1842, and an annual 4th ofJuly celebration complete with an open air dance in the park until daylight in1899, the history book records July 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 1938, as the date when the first annual Sutherland Rodeo was held. Arch Combs, one of the founders, was the arena director, and the entry fee was $5.00.Admission for adults was $.50 and for children ages seven through fourteen was $.25.

Men with names such as Salty Wells and Doc Faust, even Deadwood Slim, competed for the prize money, ranging from $10 to $20. The all-around cowboy was Sam Brunner from Sterling, Colorado. Placing first all three days was Doc Faust of Maxwell. Rain eliminated the steer riding on Saturday July 2nd and consequently that day’s attendance was the lowest of the three days.

Some extra attractions for the rodeo were Trick Riding, Fancy Roping, and Educated Horses. A parade was also held at 2:00 p.m. with three generations of cattlemen, cowboys, clowns, and a band participating.

Serving on the Rodeo committee were: Fay Coates, Jim Guffey, Harlan Guffey and Pete N. McKinley.

In 1939, reserved parking spaces for cars were sold rapidly and the main street was to be left free for visitor parking. Top money winners were Harry Daves of Westwood, New Jersey and George Green of Hershey. A new event was added for those who were daring in the milking field. Wild Brahma Cow milking found winners in Guy Combs, George Winters, Waldo Haythorn and Verle Jones.

Serving on the Rodeo Committee in 1939 were: Dr. Harlan M. Guffey, Fay Coates, E. J. Meyers, Harold P. Wiig, Dr. James P. Guffey and Pete N. McKinley.

The year 1940 showed to be a record breaking year in crowd attendance. Prize money was up to $25 for the top winner plus additional prizes. Hirschfeld’s donated a Stetson hat, O’Connor Department Store donated a traveling bag, Cowboy boots were from Montgomery Ward, fishing tackle from Woolworth’s, and a bridle.

The outstanding performer for a very successful rodeo was Lester Lewis of Maple City, Kansas, who was a calf roper as well as a school teacher. All-around cowboy was Vic Blackstone, hailing from Midland, Texas.

In 1941, new bleachers were installed and there still weren’t enough seats. The number of tickets sold that year were 2,468 adults and 494 children.

Thirteen entered Bronc Riding while there were twenty-one for the calf roping. A total of forty two cowboys entered, with all-around honors going to George Winters.

Of special interest that year was a horsemanship exhibition by Waldo Haythorn when he rode his horse without a bridle and roped and tied a calf in 23.7 seconds. Also there were showings of trick roping talents by the Wever Brothers, Floyd and Francis Jr. Francis Jr. age four at the time did rope spinning. Also the Cook children, a sister and brother act, did rope spinning.

Judges were Arch Combs, Guy Combs, Kenneth Tetro, and Henry Snivley. Arch Combs and Guy Combs were also involved in the only accidents, a broken leg and a broken ankle respectively.
The fifth Annual Rodeo in 1942 enjoyed a concert by the Sutherland and Paxton bands before the Grand Entry. The Grand Entry itself was led by Mrs. Mose Trego, with forty horsemen following. Stock was provided by J. L. Case for the fifth year in a row. Mose Trego was arena director, Dr. Harlan M. Guffey was chairman and a total of fifty-two cowboys entered.

In 1943, due to the shortage of gasoline and food, both of which were rationed, the rodeo was called off by Lee Case. There was no further information available until 1947.

The year 1947 saw lots of changes in the rodeo. It was CPA approved and sponsored by the Volunteer Fire Department. Livestock was supplied by Guy Combs, Clarence Johnson, and George Kramer. The chutes had been rebuilt and Melvin Dikeman was the arena director. The price of admission was now $1.50 for adults and $.75 for children. Capacity crowds and nearly all local cowboys made it a success. A dance following the rodeo was held at Wiigs Hall with music provided by the Arensdorf-Nicholson band. Admission was $1.00 for men and $.35 for women.

1948 saw attendance down due to extremely hot weather. A carnival was held on Front Street and the dance was in Gummere’s Hall with Don Mathers and his Westerner’s and Nick’s Hillbilly Band.

In 1949, Guy Combs was in charge of the rodeo. It was RCA (Rodeo Cowboy Association) approved. Sutherland businessmen donated Belt Buckles to winners in each event. The first Rodeo Queen Contest was held this year with Joyce Leonhardt being crowned Queen.
The first Sutherland Courier pictures of the Rodeo winners were taken in 1950. A new event was added that year in the form of Wild Burrow roping, which was won by Ted Long. Glen Nutter won the calf roping event and LeMoyne Kenton took first in Bareback riding. Silver Spurs were given to the “hardluck” cowboy, Walt Chamberlain. Lawrence Shaw received a Valentine hat for placing third in Wild Burrow roping.

Special entertainment for the 5,000 people attending was Jay Sisler and his trained Australian Shepherds, plus Jerry and his Model-T-Ford – trained bulls. Joe Cavanaugh was the announcer and the music for the dance was provided by Hadley Barrett.

In 1952, 3,000 people attended the rodeo. Stock was furnished by Bill O’Connor and his son from Elsie.

1953 saw 2,000 in attendance and 100 contestants. Junior Calf Roping was introduced for the first time for boys under sixteen. Harrison Halligan, Marvin Armstrong and Jim Haugland were among those placing. Also mentioned was Girls Barrel Racing with Joyce Leonhardt placing. The Wild Horse race was also introduced and was a real crowd pleaser. Hadley Barrett played at the Community Hall for the Rodeo dance.

The 1954 rodeo had the Ladies Barrels on July 3rd only and the Wild Horse race was on July 4th only. Bob Farrar was the clown and Ed Padra had a horse and dog act. Sandra Shoup was crowned Rodeo Queen.
1955 was the first year the Rodeo Queen, Dallas Hunt of Lincoln was given any publicity. A special trained horse act “The Hit and Two Misses”, with Shirleen and Deanna Hill came from North Platte to perform.
Night performances under new floodlights and new grandstands to seat an additional 500 people were the highlights in 1956. New rules governing the Queen Contest designated the Queen contestant had to be between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. Cecilia Boyle of North Platte was crowned Queen and Gary Trego took all-around Cowboy honors.

The Lions Club was in charge of the parade for the first time in 1957.

In 1958, the rodeo was attended by 3,000 persons and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Posse appeared for the first time in the parade.

In 1960, another change was added in the Queen contest. Jane Carlson of Sutherland was crowned the first Junior Queen, a competition for girls under the age of sixteen.

In 1962 the admission was $1.50 for adults and $.50 for children. Stock was furnished by Hudson Brothers from Leota, Kansas. The Junior Queen was Linda Gummere of Sutherland.

The 25th annual Rodeo was the first year for the Jackpot Barrel Race for Junior girls under sixteen years of age. Prize money in 1963 of $1350 was awarded to winning contestants.

1966 recorded a record number of 200 contestants competing for prizes.

In 1970, all the bleachers were positioned to the south side of the arena and the bucking chutes were moved to the north side. Art Watson furnished the horses for the Wild Horse Race for the seventeenth consecutive year. A total of 316 cowboys and 7 cowgirls were entrants.

In 1971, due to daylight saving time, the floodlights were not needed. This was a first in the history of the rodeo. The rode was conducted with 75% of the arena under water and a steady rainfall.
In 1972, Art Daly was the announcer for the first time and his band also played for the dance following.

The festivities of 1975 were recorded as the best ever. C Bar D Rodeo Company provided the stock.
In 1976, the NSRA (Nebraska State Rodeo Association) voted the Sutherland Rodeo “Rodeo of the Year”. A special Patriotic celebration was held.

1978 rang in the 40th annual rodeo with a capacity crowd paying $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for ages six through twelve. A record $12,000 was paid to those competing in the rodeo.

IN 1981, the rodeo was one of twenty to receive part of a $10,000 awards program. The program was sponsored by the Nebraska State Rodeo Association and five Coors Beer Distributors in West Central Nebraska.

In 1982, a special tribute was made in honor of John Beveridge, with Art Daly reading the “Cowboys Prayer”.

In 1983, a fireworks display following the rodeo was enjoyed. It was sponsored by the Sutherland Optimist Club. A special treat in the Grand Entry, was Buffalo Bill, portrayed by Charlie Evans of North Platte.

By 1985, Art Daly had been announcing the Sutherland Rodeo for sixteen years. The Hudson Brothers had supplied the stock for twenty-five years and a relatively new event, team roping, came onto the scene.

The 49th annual rodeo began with Dawn Wisdom of Sutherland singing the National Anthem. The finale of the rodeo was a newly revived event – the Wild Horse Race. Five teams competed.

1988 celebrated the “Golden” anniversary of the annual event. A four day celebration netted various cowboys a total of $17,950, with first place finishers taking home a commemorative belt buckle also. Fifty four teams entered the team roping competition, thirteen competed in bareback riding, twenty-one entered saddlebronc and twenty-nine entered the Brahma Bull riding. Only three out of the twenty-nine were able to complete their ride.

When the “Golden” celebration was held, Arch Combs, who had been instrumental in starting the first rodeo was in attendance. His son Vernon served as toastmaster, Jim Haugland and Don Fleecs were honored for their twenty years and 32nd years, respectively, of work with the rodeo committee and were given spurs.

In 1990, the Mutton Bustin’ was introduced for children six and under. Dan Kalin and Aaron Carter were the winners of the first two races. Special awards were presented to Melvin Eckhoff and Bob Fleecs for their “Behind the Scenes” work for the past thirty years.

1991 saw an estimated crowd of over 3900 people attend the two day performance of the Sutherland Amateur Open Rodeo for the 53rd performance during the Centennial Celebration.

Connie and Deone Hudson were recognized for their contributions to the rodeo during the past thirty years. The Hudsons under the name of Hudson Rodeo Company of Sharon Springs, Kansas, have provided the stock for those years.

Events staged and prizes awarded to the winners were Mutton Bustin’ – a belt buckle; team calf roping, $928 each; Brahma Bull riding - $551; Wild Horse Race, Steer Wrestling, Ladies Barrel race (winning time 17.4 seconds) - $565.50; Calf Roping (winning time 10.4 seconds), $628; new event this year was Ladies Breakaway Roping (winning time 3.4 seconds) $301 each; and Saddle Bronc Riding - $460. Rodeo clowns, Gary Lewis, Terry Tinney, and Larry Deges provided crowd entertainment as well as protection for the participants in the dangerous Bull Riding and Saddle and Bareback Bronc events.

Dawn Wisdom led the singing of the National Anthem, accompanied by rodeo organist Ruth Ann VanVleet. Rodeo announcer was Greg McGreer. Those serving on the Rodeo Committee were James Haugland, Lloyd Farmer, Rick Parr, Marlin White, Jim Copeland, Mike Troxel and Don Fleecs.

Rodeo Queens
1949      Joyce Leonhardt, Sutherland
1954      Sandra Shoup, Sutherland
1955      Dallas Hunt, Lincoln
1956      Cecelia Boyle, North Platte
1957      Janice Butts, Burwell
1958      Jacque Prather, North Platte
1959      Susan Stafford, North Platte
1960      Jane Carlson (Jr. Rodeo Queen), Sutherland
1961      Susan Scott, North Platte
1962      Linda Gummere, Sutherland
1963      Penny Abegg, North Platte
1964      Deanna Rogers, Dickens
1965      Barbi Scott, North Platte
1966      Julie Busnell, Bryon
1967      Mary Dailey, North Platte
1968      Kathy Dailey, North Platte
1969      Barbara Fear, Sutherland
1970      Jeanne Hunt, Arthur
1971      Karma Miller, Hershey
1972      Erin Boyle, Hershey
1973      Trudy Swedberg, Hershey
1974      Sheryl Daly, Sutherland
1975      Julie Michael, Maxwell
1976      Cindy Kleewein, North Platte
1977      Tracy Trego, North Platte
1978      Johna Klug, Maxwell
1979      Lesa Boggs, Sutherland
1980      Diane Beckman, North Platte
1981      Kelli Evans, Curtis
1982      Shelly Derra, Farnam
1983      Kelly Michaels, Maxwell
1984      Leigh Anne Parr, North Platte
1985      Kyleen McFadden, Paxton
1986      Jodie Smeltzer, North Platte
1987      Bridget Long, Tryon


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