story by Lindsay Humphrey “I like that the people in the KPRA are good, hard-working folks who generally compete as a hobby,” said Scott Vander […]
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Meet the Member Syracuse Saddle Club
story by Lindsay Humphrey
Originating in 1964, the Syracuse Saddle Club out of Syracuse, Kansas, started writing it’s comeback story in 2020. Set against a global pandemic, the small club reaped the benefits of their outdoor setting. “COVID actually benefited us more than anything,” said Jaime Werkowitch, a Syracuse Saddle Club member. “We had kids driving in from Colorado and the panhandles of both Texas and Oklahoma because everything else was shut down. We were still taking precautions, but since we have an outdoor arena COVID really benefitted our playdays.” Many of the accompanying adults were also getting in some much needed practice thanks to the Syracuse Saddle Club.
“The club had been dwindling for a few years and my wife and I wanted to keep it going for the younger generation,” said club president, Ty Raven. “We started by doing some playdays last year and built them up through the summer months.” That first playday brought in almost 70 entries and the event only continued to grow through 2020 and now into 2021. “The club used to do high school rodeos, a KPRA rodeo, playdays and jackpots, but over the years interest fell off,” Jaime added. “I think bringing those playdays back was the first step in generating interest. It brought the kids back to our community and with them, their families.”
For the first time since 2004, the Syracuse Saddle Club hosted a KPRA rodeo this year. Held the first weekend in June, just like it was before, the rodeo coincides with Beef Empire Days in Garden City, Kansas. This rodeo overlap was always by design. “We used to get a lot of contestants coming and going from Garden City,” Ty said. “At one time this was one of the biggest KPRA rodeos in the state of Kansas. Part of that is probably because of the kick back from Garden City.”
Even though the 2021 event has already passed, both Ty and Jaime are confident the community will demand another rodeo in 2022. “The community really loves the rodeo and they have provided a lot of support for it,” Ty said. Thanks to the hard work of club members and a generous community, every contestant was competing for an added $500 in their event. Contestants also enjoyed the new footing added just last year. “The saddle club brought in sand last year so we could provide some really great ground for our events,” Jaime said. “I was really excited to see all the contestants that came into town, it was really great for our community.” J&J Rodeo out of Lakin, Kansas, provided the stock and could’ve easily been another draw for contestants.
The saddle club intends to keep the arena busy as they bring in more rodeos and events. Each year the club hosts a cowboy mounted shooting event, and they will be adding more barrel racing and team roping jackpots in the near future. “We’re just trying to bring new things to the community for people to enjoy,” Jaime said. “We hope we can provide people something to watch without having to drive 60 miles.” Many community members look forward to the Syracuse Saddle Club ranch rodeo that closes out the Hamilton County Fair each July. “It’s not a sanctioned rodeo at all, it’s just local teams coming in to compete,” John said. “It’s a fun night and the community really loves it. I’m confident they enjoyed the KPRA rodeo just as much so we can continue building both events.”
The saddle club has grown their playdays so much that they’ve partnered with two other local clubs to create the Tri-Club Playdays. The events include the Lakin Saddle Club and a group from Holly, Colorado. Dates for the upcoming playdays are: July 25, August 14, September 5 and October 3. For more information about the Syracuse Saddle Club, email firstname.lastname@example.org.