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Western States Ranch Rodeo Association National Finals Behind the Scenes
story by Naomi Loomis, WSRRA Association Representative
When watching a ranch rodeo or ranch bronc riding, like the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association National Finals, do you ever take a look beyond the competition? A few of us do, here’s a look at a group of people that are vital to the success of the WSRRA Nationals Finals, but are rarely in the spotlight.
The WSRRA staff is the backbone of this event, the staff works hard year around, and they travel countless miles and hours promoting the success of the WSRRA. The staff consists of board members, volunteers, representatives, directors, judges, office staff, managers, announcers, and photographers.
The WSRRA office manager, Sarah Urbick, along with 11 other ladies handle the rodeo office. The office staff includes Patti Lund, Barbara Meyers, Diane Zakrzewski, Maren Flanigan, Marion Howard, Amanda Tollesfrud, Shellie Newman, Naomi Loomis, Kathy Wrigglesworth, Glenda Taylor and Melissa Alvarez. Debbie Romani is the V.I.P/vendor coordinator. Kristien Romani and Kelly Romani is the 8 Seconds Whiskey V.I.P booth. Kathy Flanigan is in charge of the Cowboy Crisis Fund Silent Auction, and Jolene Gouveia is in charge of the WSRRA booth. All of these fine ladies work together to make sure that all the 300 contestants and their paper work is organized and handled professionally.
“A tireless group of incredible volunteers who represent the values of the WSRRA, and support the contestants, vendors, sponsors, VIP’s, arena crew and each other throughout the finals, and the WSRRA rodeo season.” Sarah explains.
It takes a large number of good cattle to put on the WSRRA National Finals. Dave Murphey’s Hot Creek Ranch supplies the quality Corriente cattle for the national finals rodeo. It takes a great crew to manage the cattle, crew director Dennis Bisnett, and cattle crew foreman Bobby Lewis, have a great crew working with them, Dave Murphey, Jonathan and Brooke Lambert, Eric Tucker, Bridger Hake, Brett Turner, Cody Loomis, Curtis Lee Tollesfrud, and Reb Bisnett keep the finals moving behind the chutes.
The arena crew behind the scenes, and the quality cattle have been the biggest reasons for the rodeos continued success. The cattle crew has been together since the start in 2010, and working together they keep the finals running smooth.
“Behind the chutes is where the rodeo begins, states Dennis Bisnett.”
Taking care of the stock is a big job and a lot of work. All the stock, ranch broncs, wild horses and cattle, get fed twice a day, Nick and Jolene Gouveia, of the 4 G Ranch, Hines, Oregon sponsor all the feed for the WSRRA national finals. Along with their sponsorship, Nick is the feed manager, and with his crew, is responsible for feeding the stock high quality feed twice a day. The WSRRA thanks the Gouveia’s and the 4 G Ranch for their support and generous sponsorship.
Announcing at the finals takes a couple of special cowboys. Announcing together since the first national finals in 2010, Lee Daggett and Pat Sanford have become a good team. I.C.A Announcer of the Year, Lee Daggett of Enterprise, OR provides the business end of the announcing, along with the music, sound system and equipment. Jordan Valley, OR rancher Pat Sanford, brings in the color commentary, and together along with Tuffy Gessling, the WSRRA Official Clown, they keep the rodeo moving, and the crowd involved, and entertained.
“It’s a huge family reunion that you really can’t wait to get too with some friendly competition thrown in …… it feels like home,” states Tuffy Gessling, Official Clown of the WSRRA.
Arena director, Curtis Tollesfrud, keep the events running smooth in the arena. Chris Bengoa, head judge along with Rick Maestrejuan, Shane Flanigan, Jerry Howard, are the official judges of the national finals, along with flagman Brandon Nuffer they judge all the ranch rodeo team events. Ranch Bronc Riding judges Shawn Eng, Ky Rosenberg and Shane Flanigan, along with chute bosses Rick Maestrjuan and Mike Laughlin, team up with Curtis Tollesfrud, Travis Yutzie and the stock contractors to keep the ranch bronc riding running smooth.
“When Marc approached me to help with the finals, Chris Bengoa and I thought it would be a way to get involved in a great association. We have had a few bumps along the way but all in all, the competition is really good and judging the finals is very rewarding. It takes a good staff to put the finals on. We never had a personal adjenda for the WSRRA finals, but a goal that included the whole association, which is heading in the right direction.” Rick Maestrejuan
“The WSRRA offers a lot of challenges, with the contestants, livestock and venders. Everything comes down to time. The 1st couple of years I tried to do all myself, now I have a group of people that I trust, and they work hard. No one sees what goes on out back, but that work never ends. My day starts at 4:30 am, and ends sometimes after midnight, I am there to open the Complex and close it down at night. My crew will start on Monday before the rodeo setting up corrals, getting hay and equipment, fixing gates and making sure all pens have water. Then about Wednesday the livestock shows up, everything is brand inspected and assigned pens, then sorted for each event. The rodeo itself is work, with getting contestants, judges and everyone in place. I am the man they all “hate”. Marc puts a lot on my plate, but I do it for the Cowboys and Cowgirls. I have always loved rodeo, and I competed in Ranch Rodeos, I love the excitement. The best part is meeting the people, and getting to know them, and their families. The WSRRA is a family.” states Curtis Tollesfrud.
“Being the official flagger at the WSRRA finals is a great opportunity for me. Not only do I get see great horseman and horsewomen, I also get to work with a great group of judges,” states Brandon Nuffer.
A highlight of the WSRRA Finals is the grand entry. Crystal Kelly, grand entry coordinator does an excellent job making sure the grand entry is in working order. The grand entry consist of all the teams coming in with their state flags, the national anthem being sung, sponsors flags being carried by local cowgirls, the official WSRRA Stage Coach driven by Tuffy Gessling, carries V.I.P’s, Grand Marshals and National sponsors.
Since the start in 2010, the WSRRA’s official photographer, Mary Williams Hyde does an excellent job in capturing all the contestants, their horses and all the rodeo action. She also works year around on the program and the website.
“My job as the WSRRA official photographer is to document the WSRRA National Finals and attend enough WSRRA sanctioned events during the year to ensure the availability of exciting, good quality photos for ads, Rodeo News and other publication stories, posters, social media, the WSRRA website, and the WSRRA Finals program. It has been very exciting to be part of the WSRRA almost from the beginning. It has been a lot of really hard work! It is so rewarding to see how many WSRRA sanctioned events there are, now in 13 states and Canada. We felt in the beginning there was a need for such an organization and it looks like hundreds of competitors think we were right! Feels great,” says Mary Williams Hyde.
The WSRRA thanks Mary for all her hard work, and continued dedication to the association.
The WSRRA security staff is responsible for the event and building security, this is a thankless job, and goes largely unnoticed. The WSRRA National Finals rodeo couldn’t happen without the dedication of our security team. The WSRRA security team headed by Bob Boyd and Pete Romani, along with their team members, Jose Alvarez, Dale Wrigglesworth, Anthony Romani and Nick Gouveia do a good job in keeping the event safe, and secure. The event couldn’t happen without the work of our security team.
“Starting in 2007, the WSRRA was a grass roots idea to promote the average full, and part time cowboys. Since the official start in 2010, all of these people have been dedicated to the success of the association. Without their hard work and dedication, the WSRRA would never have existed, they are 100% responsible for the success of the national finals rodeo. Along with our dedicated national finals staff and crew, countless hours of work by producers, members, rodeo committees and our sponsors have come together to make up the WSRRA family. None of the association success could have happened without their participation. Saying thank you will never be enough to express the gratitude of the WSRRA.” says Marc Page, WSRRA President.
Telling the behind the scene story is only a glimpse of the hard work and dedication of the crew that makes the association work.
On behalf of the WSRRA family, special thanks for all you do.