Meet the Rodeo Company Rockin’ K Rodeo
story by Siri Stevens Tony Keeton started his company, Rockin’ K Rodeo in 2017. It’s not his only full time job. Tony has worked for […]
story by Michele Toberer
As a retired middle school principal from Illinois, Mike Latting spent over 40 years in the education system, recently retiring as the principal of Washington Junior High School in Joliet, Illinois. Although a full-time career in the demanding public education system might have been plenty for many, Mike has lived somewhat of a dual life for many years, as he also continued the operation of the rodeo company started by his dad, Thyrl Latting, over 55 years ago. “My dad used to ride bareback, rode bulls, and steer wrestled back in the day. He competed in the early 1950’s before starting Latting Rodeo Productions, Incorporated.” Thyrl’s mission was to provide family-oriented entertainment, which Mike still maintains as the cornerstone of Latting Rodeo Productions, Inc. The Lattings have had a longstanding relationship with the International Professional Rodeo Association, as they have been producing IPRA rodeos since the company was founded.
The passion Mike developed for rodeo as he traveled the rodeo circuits with his parents, and sister Tracy, ultimately put him in the bucking chutes, as he became enthralled with the sport and spent several years riding bucking horses and bulls. He attended the University of Colorado on a rodeo scholarship and made a name for himself in the college rodeo ranks after winning champion regional bull riding titles in the NIRA in 1973 and 1974. Mike competed for many years in the IPRA and was an International Finals Rodeo competitor in 1980-1982. Mike accepted an invitation from his father to partner with him in Latting Rodeo Productions, Inc. and the company flourished as the father and son continued to develop relationships with rodeo committees across the country.
Thyrl started a bucking horse breeding program in 1976, and many of the 35 horses that Mike keeps for rodeo productions today, are from that foundation bloodline that he began. Mike also keeps approximately 20 bulls for competition and leases the timed-event cattle needed for rodeos. Thyrl passed in January, 2013, and Mike has continued the rodeo company since then. Mike is proud of the reputation of reliability and honesty that he and Thyrl have always determined to project, and the fact that they have annually returning clients that have been repeat customers for over 50 years speaks volumes to the success of that mission. “We’ve produced the Peotone, Illinois rodeo for 50 years, the Wauconda, Illinois rodeo for 35 years, and the Kankakee, Illinois rodeo for at least 25 years. We offer all of our clients a turn-key operation, we provide the entire program for them.”
Mike has been married to Nina for 42 years, and the couple has three grown children, Chris, Kelley, and Michelle. His mom, Harriett, is 88 years old now and lives in Robbins, Illinois. Mike’s children have grown up immersed in rodeo through their parents’ and grandparents’ involvement, helping with the production of rodeos, and Chris competed as a calf roper, Kelley rode bulls, and Michelle barrel raced. While Mike was working as a principal, life was extremely busy as the weekends were filled with rodeos, and there was the constant chore list involved with owning all of the stock for the company. “When I got home from school, or home late after basketball games, I still had to do chores and take care of all the animals, I was very busy.” However, Mike wouldn’t change a thing, and appreciates the extended family that rodeo has brought to his family’s life. “I’ve made some lifetime friendship with people in rodeo, and especially in the IPRA, from both before and after I was rodeoing. I wouldn’t trade the relationships that have been brought to my life for anything. The friendships you have with people while you rodeo are good, and the friendships after are good; when everyone gets old and sits around and talks about it.”
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