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Rodeo Spotlight Ogallala Roundup Rodeo
story by Lindsay King
Rodeos in Ogallala, Nebraska, date back to the era of country-wide cattle drives. “Back in the day, Ogallala was the hub. Lots of cattle drives actually ended here. The town and this rodeo have a lot of traditions and heritage rooted in that,” said Steve Krause, a 30-year rodeo committee member and Adams Bank and Trust chief banking officer. The Ogallala Roundup Rodeo committee is chalked full of been-there, done-that volunteers. “Plenty of the 15 volunteers have been here just as long, if not longer, then I have. It really doesn’t take much to put this rodeo on because we all know our jobs and we all just get them done.” Steve is the chairman of the committee, but just like everyone else he wears many hats. Leading up to the rodeo he can be found doing everything from coordinating advertising and billing to sprucing up the bucking chutes.
The committee speculates that the Ogallala Roundup Rodeo hosted its first official performance in 1916, but it has long been a staple in the community. Nobody in the community, nor on the committee, can remember a time when the annual rodeo wasn’t held. “We have pictures from the 1800s when it wasn’t a formal rodeo, just a guy on a bucking horse with no fences or anything down at the fairgrounds.” Traditionally, the rodeo clinches the week-long Keith County Fair and 2019 is no different. Saturday, July 27 kicks off the weekend, first with slack at noon and a performance at 7:30 p.m. “This year we will have mini broncs and bulls for the kids during the performance. This is our first year to include that.” Steer roping starts promptly at noon on Sunday and the final performance follows at 7 p.m. “All of our regular roughstock riders will be on Sunday and we are hoping to have a full line up of them.”
Ogallala has seen as many as 300 entries in one weekend, but they typically average out at 250. For the last two years, this rodeo has been named the Small Purse Rodeo of the Year in the NSRA. They are looking to make it a third. “We have a unique situation with our arena setup that makes everything flow really smooth. One guy handles everything on the west end of the arena, the roping box, and another guy is on the east end with the bucking stock. Everyone that works the rodeo has been there for many years and they are all highly skilled at their jobs.”
Located conveniently just off Interstate 80, it is easy for both contestants and spectators to get to. “One of the big draws in this area is Lake McConaughy, the biggest man-made lake in the state. We always give discounts to the hotels up on the Interstate for people who might be in town that weekend.” In 2018, two million people passed through Ogallala specifically to visit the lake. Backed by a strong community, the Ogallala Roundup Rodeo keeps their business local. For the last few years Gypsy Joe Rodeo out of Arthur, Nebraska, has fully stocked the rodeo. “Wade Kramer and his grew have a good reputation in the area and they take good care of their stock and their equipment. Everything just runs really smooth with them.”
The committee continues to put on a rodeo the contestants enjoy simply by doing their job year in and out. Named the NSRA Rodeo of the Year, as voted on by the contestants, multiple years in the past, the committee hopes to put on a show in 2019 worthy of the reputation preceding them.