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Meet the Committee: Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo
story by Lindsay Whelchel
Legendary rodeo cowboy Jim Shoulders put his home of Henryetta, Okla. on the map, so it was perplexing to the (at the time) President of the Henryetta Chamber of Commerce and rodeo-cowgirl herself, Tammie Hiatt, that there was no rodeo held in Henryetta. A conversation with rodeo friends out on the road prompted her to come home and change that. That’s how the International Professional Rodeo Association-sanctioned Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo was formed.
The city designated a picturesque rodeo grounds in Nichols Park for an arena, and work began to put on the first annual event over Labor Day weekend 22 years ago.
“The first rodeo, I was so nervous, because it was getting close for it to start, and there was nobody there. I was about to panic, and then all of a sudden over that hill that’s behind our arena, these people just start coming over, and it was so incredible,” Tammie describes, adding that over the following years of rodeo, they’ve had dedicated crowds showing up no matter if it were pouring rain or 102 degrees of Oklahoma heat and humidity. “The town has just really supported the rodeo all of these years. It’s just helped it grow to what it is today.”
What it is today is a group effort focusing on the finest of details from signage to sponsorship relations.
“It’s just unbelievable the details that go into it, getting pennants up and road signage and keeping the sponsors involved. As the economy changes that’s a real hurdle, but we’ve got a real good presenting sponsor in One Fire Casino, so we try to make sure we give our sponsors everything we promise them,” Tammie explains.
Tammie, her husband Mark, and longtime committee member, Andy Bealko, have been the core committee over the years, but they’ve been joined by numerous supporters who all see to it that the event is a success.
In the early days, they held the rodeo on Sunday and Labor Day Monday, but have since moved it to Saturday and Sunday nights of the weekend.
And that’s when the committee can see the fruits of their labor.
“I really enjoy watching the rodeo go on and watching the crowd gather. This year they were so into it, and Gizmo [McCracken, rodeo entertainer] did such a good job of really getting the crowd engaged, and that’s what I enjoy. Seeing the kids in the boot race, their chance to get in the arena and that star struck look in their eyes,” Tammie describes.
And Jim Shoulders’ legacy is ever-present in the rodeo and the town, starting with the rodeo’s logo, a bucking bull in honor of Shoulders. Another famous “cowboy” for Henryetta is Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys football team. So, the logo also has a Dallas Cowboys-inspired star surrounding the bull.
Further, the town has branded itself the rodeo cowboy capital of the world. In the chamber of commerce, they have the horn mount of Jim Shoulders’ bull Tornado and the famous chute he came out of with Freckles Brown astride in Oklahoma City.
“When a community can find their strength or their draw card, you play on that, and Jim is ours. Between him and Troy Aikman, both were cowboys in different forms,” Tammie says.
And no better place for cowboys to be honored than at a rodeo.