Welcome To The Annual Gary Hardt Memorial Spring Rodeo

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Rodeos are marvels of efficiency.

Each event requires the coordinated efforts of many people. And as one event unfolds, preparations are under way for the next.

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Jim Barrett, who runs the arena during Payson rodeos, with his horse and a member of the next rodeo generation -- 20-month-old grandson Rollins Reed-Barrett.

Throw in the fact that a whole lot of horses and cows are part of the process and it's truly amazing that rodeos unfold as smoothly as they do.

Jim Barrett is the man who keeps things moving at the Gary Hardt Memorial PRCA Spring Rodeo. He humbly calls himself the man who runs the arena, but it's a lot more complicated than he sometimes lets on.

"I line out the help for the arena," Barrett said. "We've got people loading cattle and untying calves, and we've got people opening chute gates and stripping broncs, penning cattle down at the far end, people running scores. I probably have 25 people working for me."

Many of them have been with him for a number of years.

"The guys that do it are people who have done it before, and they don't want to change jobs," he said.

That's the way Barrett likes it too, because working a rodeo can be a hazardous pastime.

"I like experienced people inside the arena itself, opening gates and so forth, so they know what they're doing and don't get hurt," he said.

Barrett moved to Payson from Phoenix in 1959, and he's been involved in rodeos for 45 years. He served as Payson rodeo boss from 1972 through 1984.

As you might expect, the sport has changed over the years.

"One big change is the national sponsors," Barrett said. "We didn't have them before."

Technology has impacted virtually every aspect of our lives, and rodeo is no exception.

"We now have a system called Pro Com that allows cowboys to enter through a central agency in Colorado Springs," Barrett said. "That's really helped. Before we had to set up a room in the Ox Bow and all these cowboys had to call into there within a certain time. It was a real headache."

When Barrett moved to Payson, the rodeo grounds were located behind Bashas' supermarket.

"There was nothing there but a big old field," Barrett said. "But it's moved several times. Before that, it was down there by the country club, and they used to do it right on Main Street."

The new arena, the Payson Event Center, is a major improvement, Barrett said. For one thing, it requires a lot less maintenance than the old Rumsey Park arena.

"We still have work parties, but since they went to all pipe, the maintenance on it is so little compared to what we used to have out there where the majority of it was board corrals and chutes," he said. "We used to have to start two weeks before the rodeo to paint out there and replace broken boards and rotten posts."

The event center is also a great place to stage a rodeo.

"They did an excellent job of designing it," Barrett said. "The return lanes into the roping box area are excellent, and so is the stripping chute for taking stuff off the broncs and bulls. A man is in very little danger, which is something I can't say for Laughlin."

Barrett knows the Laughlin, Nev. arena, as well as those in Prescott, Phoenix, Tucson and other places throughout the state because he's often called on to help run their rodeos.

It was at a rodeo in Tucson that Barrett had one of his most memorable and painful experiences.

"I was down to the Turquoise Finals in Old Tucson and I was sitting on a bank on the far side of the arena when a bull got out," Barrett said. "The last time I seen that bull, he was heading for a cholla flat out there, and he made a big circle back around a little grandstand and somebody said, ‘There's that bull.' I stood up just in time for him to hit me in the chest. I went flying down into a gully; I probably fell 12 or 14 feet. When I walked out of there, my butt looked like somebody put baseballs in it."

As long as you stay in the grandstand, you shouldn't have to worry about runaway bulls at the Spring Rodeo, and it's an excellent opportunity to experience the sport in a less crowded environment than the August Doin's.

"There's more prize money in the August rodeo," Barrett said. "But the good thing for spectators is that you can get better seats for the Spring Rodeo."

He says there's more than one reason to attend a performance of the sport that is so much a part of Payson's history.

"It's important to preserve the heritage of rodeo, that's for sure," he said. "And it's also a darn good time."

Barrett hopes more people also will get interested in serving on the Pro Rodeo Committee or volunteering in other capacities to help keep rodeo alive.

"People need to take an interest in it and see where it goes and how it runs and see how they can fit in to help make it better," he said.

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