Profile: Denard Butler
When Denard Butler closes his eyes, he’s thinking about one of two things: either steer wrestling, or making money. The Checotah, Okla. cowboy, a roper-turned-steer […]
Each year the association selects honorees who’ve shown dedication and passion for the sport of high school rodeo in South Dakota. Phil and Terri Kissack of Spearfish, South Dakota were recently named the 2015 South Dakota High School Rodeo “Persons of the Year.”
Passion and dedication are two very good words to describe how the Kissack’s feel about rodeo. Phil and Terri grew up in the rodeo community. Both competed when they were in high school. Terri competed for the Faith rodeo team and Phil rode for Spearfish.
In 1974, Terri earned the the National High School Girls Cutting Championship aboard a horse her dad, South Dakota Cutting Horse Hall of Fame trainer Darrel Griffith, had trained and shown. Her senior year, she was the South Dakota breakaway, cutting and all-around champion. Phil stayed busy running his family’s farming operation outside of Spearfish, but he made high school rodeo a priority and competed in team roping and tie-down roping.
Fast forward a number of years to when Phil and Terri’s two oldest children were in high school. Jesse and Billie Jo excelled in sports, but they loved competition outside the rodeo arena. Phil and Terri spent their time traveling to baseball and basketball games, and “loved every minute of it.”
In 2006, their youngest son Dane entered high school and their world shifted back to rodeo. Dane had competed in the Junior and Little Britches ranks, and his involvement in High School Rodeo was an exciting next step. That year Terri became the advisor for the Spearfish/Belle Fourche rodeo club, a position she held for five years.
In 2007 Phil became a Host Site committee member and a state director, roles he served in until 2014. Over the past ten years, the Kissacks have invited countless high school kids to come and practice at their arena, oftentimes helping them with their horses and horsemanship. Terri has found a fun niche judging queen contests, and recently, Terri and Phil joined forces to co-judge the Deadwood “Days of 76” queen competition.
Phil joined the Host Site committee in its second year of hosting the State High School Finals rodeo. He quickly got to work organizing community support to improve the city’s rodeo grounds, and a partnership between the State High School Finals committee and the Black Hills Round-Up committee was born. The group hauled in sand to improve the grounds, installed drain tile under the arenas, and purchased new bucking chutes, roping chutes, and holding pens. They also enlarged both arenas, the cutting pen, and the warm up arena.
“I wanted to try and make the privilege that Belle Fourche had to host the event as an ongoing thing. We wanted to make it better every year,” said Phil.
“I’d describe Phil as the quiet person behind the scenes who’s making sure everything goes smoothly all week long,” commented Terri.
“I remember one year, it rained like crazy during the [state high school] finals, and Phil went and worked the ground all night long,” said Terri. “Then he talked them into starting the rodeo two hours late so the ground could be just right for the kids. He served because he loves the sport of rodeo and he loves seeing kids compete and work so hard at something.”
The work ethic of the contestants is a quality Terri and Phil believe is unique about the sport. They also appreciate the family-centric nature of the competitions.
“Rodeo is a really unique sport because you compete as an individual, yet the whole rodeo community is like a family. When one family sees another family in need of a horse, a place to practice, or advice, it’s freely given,” said Terri. “I like that you’re more in control of the direction of your kids. There’s so much family time to be had driving to and from rodeos, versus them riding to a game in a bus.”
“As we helped with high school rodeo, our mission focused on how rodeo builds character in everyone who participates,” said Terri. “Some will never be involved with horses again, while others will get full ride scholarships to rodeo in college. Yet their experiences in high school rodeo help them be successful in their future lives.”
“I feel very honored by this recognition, but I’m also very humbled knowing how many people are doing exactly what we’ve done to help the sport of rodeo in South Dakota. I’d like to share this honor with those people,” said Terri.
“We do it because somebody else was doing it for us when we were kids,” smiled Phil.
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