Rodeo Reunion Plans Take Shape

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The Second Annual Payson Rodeo Reunion will have a twist or two -- literally. Nancy Sheppard, now 76, will perform rope tricks. Sheppard last performed in Payson in 1948 at the age of 18, she went on to be drafted into the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

The Gila County resident's last formal performance was in 1990 for Armani in Milan, Italy, said Jayne Peace Pyle, who once again is sponsoring the reunion with her husband, Jinx Pyle, through their business Git A Rope Enterprises.

The rodeo reunion will incorporate a reunion for all Payson High School graduates.

"Jinx's class, which graduated in 1963, was going to have a reunion earlier this summer, but decided to switch and have it at the rodeo reunion," Peace-Pyle said. Since the graduation Class of 1963 was so small, it was decided to open the event to all PHS graduates.

"Our guests of honor this year are Leroy and Velma Tucker," she said.

The Tuckers are part of the Payson Rodeo's history.

Leroy won the event's All Around Cowboy award in 1957. Among the contests he won were the belled-calf roping, where a bunch of calves were turned loose in the arena along with the contestants. One of the calves was belled. The first cowboy to rope and tie a calf, then remount and rope the belled calf won the event.

To win the All Around Cowboy award, a cowboy had to win three events. Leroy had won many calf roping and team tying events, but needed a third competition. So, he entered an event he had never tried before -- steer wrestling. He won the top money and the All Around Championship.

Velma grew up around the rodeo. Her mother, Phoebe, and step-father, Chester, met at a Payson Rodeo. Phoebe had just won a matched foot race on Main Street. Chet rode up and told her he liked a girl who could run and win. Chet Cooper was a race horse man.

To get a taste of the historic gathering the first Rodeo Reunion was, visit gitarope.com and click on "EVENTS" to see a video-slide show from the 2005 celebration. The project features lots of stills that come to life, with a slide and fade to reveal more of the contents on the site. There is also dramatic music throughout the presentation.

"We had about 700 people through there," Peace-Pyle said the attendance at the first reunion. "This year we are expecting at least 200 more."

So, to have enough food available, guests are being asked to bring a salad, desserts or cakes.

The video-slide show on gitarope.com includes a registration form for the reunion. To make a reservation directly, call either (928) 474-0380 or (928) 474-3227, you may get an answering machine, leave your registration as a voice mail or contact Peace-Pyle at jaynepeace@hotmail.com or Leckie Cline Ski at spiritwoman@direcway.com.

Pepsi will help Git A Rope with sponsorship of the big event.

Copies of the book, "Rodeo 101, History of the Payson Arizona Rodeo 1884-1984" by Jayne and Jinx will be for sale at the reunion so guest can go around and have the cowboys autograph it.

(Information on Leroy and Velma Tucker from the book "Rodeo 101, History of the Payson, Arizona Rodeo 1884-1984" by Jayne Peace-Pyle and Jinx Pyle, published by their company, Git a Rope Publishing.)

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