Oldest Continuous Rodeo Better Than Ever

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After 125 straight years of rodeoing, Payson’s August Rodeo has seen its fair share of cowboys, cowgirls, clowns and bulls. But with 2009 marking the quasquicentennial of the event, organizers are pulling out a few new tricks.

Director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Cameron Davis said the world’s oldest continuous rodeo would see a return to its historic roots while still highlighting some of the country’s best riders.

“Often referred to as a rival only to Christmas, the August Doin’s celebration was a time for all the surrounding Rim Country communities and their families to come together and enjoy each others’ company and the sport of rodeo,” Davis said.

With the help of a new committee, the Payson Rodeo Preservation Alliance (PRPA) headed up by Chuck Jackman, organizers are planning a two-week-long celebration of the town and rodeo. The PRPA will manage the rodeo and all the related festivities.

“We knew we wanted this to be very special; to be a celebration of not just the rodeo but also the community,” Davis said. “Because this is a special event that only happens once.”

To commemorate 125 years, organizers are combining two weeks of events so spectators can attend several rodeos, a parade and fund-raiser.

“We are restructuring the rodeo, not trying to fix the wheel, just give it a little grease,” Jackman said.

Things will kick off with the third annual Gracie Lee Haught Memorial barrel race and team roping events Aug. 7-9 at the Payson Event Center. The 125th annual rodeo will begin Aug. 12-13 with the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) and a ranch rodeo. A ranch rodeo is for amateur cowboys and cowgirls. Payson has not held a ranch rodeo in more than 10 years, Davis said.

There will be three WPRA events — barrel racing, team roping and calf roping. There will also be three ranch events — saddle bronc, wild cow milking and a boot race for children.

On Aug. 14, the first performance in the 125th annual rodeo will begin with the Tough Enough To Wear Pink benefit for breast cancer research. Spectators and riders are encouraged to wear pink.

The second and third performances by Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) cowboys are Aug. 15, with the final performance Aug. 16.

Aug. 15 is the Rodeo Parade on Main Street. Davis said this year’s parade will include Western riders, marching bands, a color guard, classic vehicles, floats, horse-drawn vehicles and rodeo royalty.

Work on the 125th rodeo started soon after the 2008 rodeo, Davis said. The chamber and town decided to create the PRPA to breathe new life into the event.

Jackman said the PRPA’s only mission is to preserve and perpetuate the sport of rodeo in the Rim Country and continue it as a PRCA-sanctioned event.

Jackman, who served as a member of the Payson ProRodeo Committee for 20 years and co-chairing their efforts with the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo for more than 15 years, is no stranger to rodeos. Jackman is currently on the advisory board for the Parada del Sol rodeo in Scottsdale and has been an arena signage supervisor for the Laughlin River Stampede Rodeo for 13 years.

Jackman is joined on the PRPA by Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin, historian Jinx Pyle, Dan Haapala of KMOG, Mazatzal Casino Gaming Director Farrell Hoosava and John Naughton, publisher of the Payson Roundup and chamber board member, to name a few. Davis said committee members were specifically chosen because of their positive influence in the community.

“Working with them has been an honor and I believe due to their expertise, the 125th Annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo will be one of the finest Rim Country has ever experienced,” Jackman said.

PRPA is planning to invest a portion of the proceeds from the 125th event to improve the Payson Event Center.

Jackman believes the sport of rodeo is one of the defining characteristics of the town of Payson.

“Some of the greatest professional cowboys and cowgirls to have ever mounted a horse or held on for an 8-second ride have been involved in Payson’s rodeo,” he said.

Some of the noted past competitors in the Payson rodeo include Ty Murry, current Professional Bull Riders Association president and winner of more All-Around World Championship titles than any other cowboy; Cody Ohl, world champion tie-down roper; and Sheri Cervi, world champion barrel racer and third all-time highest rodeo money earner.

For more information on the rodeo, visit www.paysonrimcountry.com.

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