ProFile: Mayce Marek
Mayce Marek is looking forward to starting a new chapter in her life – she will be going to Warton Junior College on a rodeo […]
The Black Hills Stock Show celebrates its 39th anniversary this February, and for Amy (Sutton) Muller of Agar, S.D., the show is not only the brainchild of her family, but a showcase of the rodeo talent which runs thick through all six generations of Suttons.
The history of the Suttons starts even before South Dakota became a state. Amy’s great-great grandfather, Edwin Sutton, homesteaded the family’s ranch in 1883, set in the hills near the Missouri River. He started putting on rodeos Sunday after church for the township using his ranch stock. By the late 1920s, he and his sons were producing three-day rodeos on their ranch, where a young Lawrence Welk from North Dakota occasionally stopped to contribute his sparkling music. Edwin’s son, James, ushered the rodeo company into the next generation by becoming a member of the PRCA. He later became the first stock contractor to be inducted into the PRCA’s Hall of Champions in 1982. James and his son, Jim, focused in on the breeding of the rodeo company’s livestock, particularly the bucking horses, which earned them several first runners up and three winners of the PRCA Horse of the Year. In the late ‘70s, Amy’s dad, Steve, who has picked up the WNFR five times, took over the ranch management. Amy was born soon after, going to her first rodeo at ten days old.
Her own history in rodeo includes competing through college, carrying the American flag in the 1995 WNFR, and most recently, timing during the 2015 WNFR. But the Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo holds a special place in Amy’s memories. “The show is second nature since it’s been there every year of my life, but I first remember being four years old and carrying the American flag,” she says. “Working alongside all those queens who were in their early 20,s and hanging out with the contestants’ kids made the whole thing feel like one big fun family celebration!”
Amy carried flags and chased cattle out of the arena until she was 18 and off to college at South Dakota State University like her grandfather and father before her. She studied animal science and competed on the college team in breakaway roping and barrel racing. Her brothers, Brent and Brice, following suit a few years later. “When I was halfway through school, Dad and Grandpa told me and my brothers that they would like for us to come back and join the company as partners,” Amy recalls. “Just like when I was a kid, I stayed very active with the livestock. From the time we were old enough, we’d hop in the truck and do our part with feeding, haying, fixing fence, and whatever else needed done.”
Within the last several years, however, Amy’s job description changed after the family’s bookkeeper of 21 years retired. “I took over the bookkeeping about the time I had my son, Shaden,” says Amy. “We work rodeos where we are the contractor for a committee, as well as producing rodeos as the committee and contractor ourselves. My day is filled with working on both of those types of rodeo events, as well as sponsorships, marketing, advertising, social media, and our Sutton Rodeo merchandising. I also keep the financial books and the livestock records. About three years ago, Dad started a cross breeding program and brought in outside stock contractors. Those colts are just getting to bucking age, so we’re very excited to see how the offspring from this program turns out.”
In addition to her office work, Amy continues to time about 12 of the 20 to 30 rodeos Sutton Rodeo produces each year. She obtained her PRCA card when she was 19 and took over timing when her grandmother, Julie, retired. Both Julie and Amy’s mom, Kim, have timed the WNFR, and in 2015, Amy was given the opportunity to do the same. “There’s no feeling I’ve ever experienced like working that rodeo,” says Amy. “The tenth round in that room was electric – so much could happen, you could feel the excitement buzzing, from the contestants, to the personnel and all the fans! Working with Tammy Braden and Jessi Franzen was extremely rewarding. They made working the NFR such a positive experience – they are wonderful ladies, and they’ll be lifelong friends!”
Alerted ahead of time by her mother and grandmother on how quickly the rodeo would move, Amy was prepared. “You don’t ever want to take your eyes off the arena for fear of missing anything, but you still have to record the times and penalties,” she explains. “One timer wears a headset that goes to the office, which puts out the official time for the record as the rodeo is running.” Along with timing, Amy and the other timers worked afternoons and evenings in the office putting together information such as the official stock draw and buck order, as well as updating the posted rodeo results, standings, and money. “Ultimately, it was one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had!” says Amy.
Fortunately, timing and Sutton Rodeo also tie in to Amy’s role as a wife and mother. She and her husband, Steven, have a two-year-old son, Shaden, as well as running their own cattle herd and operating a cattle carcass ultrasound business, Midwest Sonatech. A seasonal job that runs from December to May, Steven and hired friends and family travel around South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska, booking one or even two clients a day depending on the number of head to ultrasound. Amy does all the computer and bookwork while Steven does the imaging. “Steven and I travelled together exclusively for about five years until we had Shaden,” says Amy. “We ultra sounded until just a few hours before the c-section we’d scheduled for Shaden, and then went from the hospital to Rapid City to work the Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo!”
With just eight of them to produce all rodeo events held during the Stock Show, Amy and her family – who all live within a few miles of each other on the family ranch – know how to divide and conquer. “We start planning the next stock show in April,” says Amy. “Most of the rodeos that land in the same category as us – large indoor rodeo of the year – have hundreds to thousands of volunteers. We joke that we’re still looking for our first volunteer.” The Suttons’ events include the PRCA Rodeo, Sutton Ranch Rodeo, Girls in Spurs, Wrangler Champions Challenge, Bucking Horse Sale, and the PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour, while the SDHSRA 20X Extreme Showcase is especially important to Steve Sutton. “Dad is always looking to give back to youth rodeo,” Amy explains. “We keep the numbers the same each year, but we’re always looking to give those kids more things to compete for and a bigger platform to showcase them on.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how truly rewarding and exciting it is to work in this company and watch our animals develop and succeed,” says Amy. “You’re not going to get rich in this industry, but it’s really self-rewarding. Goal-wise, I’d love the opportunity to time the NFR again,” she adds. “And on a more personal level, I hope to keep expanding and improving our family business alongside my two brothers. Doing something like this for six generations doesn’t happen that often, and I want to keep this lifestyle going.”
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