Honoring Legendary Rim Cowboys, Champions

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Mayor Kenny Evans and Harry Shill

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Photo courtesy of Nancy Sheppard

Nancy Sheppard still holds the world records for trick riding and trick roping.

Rodeo in the Rim Country might be small-town, homegrown fun, but 10 world champions earned their first spurs here. Payson hosts the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo — it was started in 1884 and celebrates its 125th anniversary in August. Now the men and women who started the event and carried the tradition to those world championships are to be honored through the Payson Pro Rodeo Ring of Honor.

Some of the Rim Country and Tonto Basin world champion rodeo competitors still hold records in their fields.

To honor those world champions and the founders of the Payson Rodeo, the Payson Pro Rodeo Ring of Honor is to be inaugurated this month. A special ceremony, dinner and dance are planned Friday, July 17 at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino.

Farrell Hoosava, a member of the Rodeo Preservation Alliance Committee, conceived the idea of the Ring of Honor. Research on the candidates and materials on their contributions is in the hands of Payson’s official town historian, Jayne Peace Pyle, with preparations for the event being supervised by Pyle and Judy Baker.

Ring of Honor

There will be 14 people inducted into this first Ring of Honor, eight are deceased and six are living.

Certificates will be presented to a family representative of the deceased honorees and sterling silver rings will be given to the living inductees.

Posthumous honors will be given to Charlie Meadows, George Cline, Joe Bassett, John Armer, Asbury Schell, Ace Gardner, John Rhodes and Eddie Schell. Rings will go to three world champion cowgirls — Nancy Sheppard, Tammy Kelly and Penny Conway, and three outstanding cowboys — Eddie Conway, Frank Kelly and Harry Shill. Hoosava and Payson Mayor Kenny Evans will make the presentation of the honors.

Among the special guests will be the son of one of the attendees at the very first Payson Rodeo in 1884. World champion trick rider and trick roper Nancy Sheppard, who still holds the records in the field, will be showing some of her rope spinning skills as part of the evening, too.

She is a member of the Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Sheppard will also be the grand marshal in the 125th annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo parade in August.

The event is sponsored by the Payson Pro Rodeo Preservation and Alliance group. The ceremony, dinner and dance is a chance to rub elbows with Payson area world champion rodeo athletes, so bring an autograph book, rodeo memorabilia or Rodeo 101 book to be signed by these stars of the arena.

The cost is a donation of $1,000 for a table of eight and $125 for individual seats and includes a souvenir from the 125th annual Oldest Continuous Rodeo for each guest.

A prime rib dinner will be served, music will be provided by local artists and there will be a silent auction of both historic cowboy collectibles and new items. The evening will also be the first opportunity to view the design of the Ring of Honor Memorial to be built at the Payson Event Center rodeo grounds.

For tickets to this dinner, dance and Ring of Honor induction, contact Jayne Peace Pyle at (928) 474-0380, or call Cameron Davis at (928) 474-5242, extension 7. Doors will open at 5 p.m., with dinner at 6 p.m. The deadline to purchase a ticket or table at the event is Wednesday, July 15.

Harry Shill given special honor

Inductee Harry Shill has received a special honor in advance of becoming a charter member of the Payson Pro Rodeo Ring of Honor.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans made Harry Shill Payson’s official Rodeo Ambassador July 1. His job as ambassador is to promote the sport of rodeo in Payson. He plans to promote rodeo in the newspapers, on the radio, and in large and small groups of interested people. Payson organizations may want to invite him to speak.

Shill will have a float in the upcoming rodeo parade again — and his float is very rodeo oriented.

The first time Shill competed in the Payson Rodeo he was 16. That was back when hometown cowboys could enter. His contest was bull riding.

Over a period of 50 years, Shill developed his bull riding into a show by parachuting out of an airplane, then riding a bull. He is in a class of his own and loves what he does. He went to the National Old Timers Rodeo Association Finals in 1987.

Shill, and his wife, Sharron, have adopted the Payson Rodeo Reunion. They will host a Cowboy Golf Tournament and a barbecue on Aug. 15 as part of the reunion festivities.

He is a well-known rodeo cowboy and he keeps in contact with the others who used to come to Payson each August. He loves the sport of rodeo and does all he can to support it.

Payson’s 125th is Aug. 14-16

Plan to attend Payson’s 125th Annual Rodeo this year Aug. 14-16. This is the world’s oldest rodeo, started in 1884 — four years before Prescott — but Prescott trademarked the title, so Payson has to advertise as the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. “See you there!” said Shill.

Payson’s Official Town Historians, Jinx Pyle and Jayne Peace Pyle, were asked what they thought about the choice of Harry Shill as Payson’s Rodeo Ambassador.

“Who else could do better? Harry is the man. He has lived the life, he knows what he speaks of, and he’s a colorful character. I think he will give it all he’s got,” Jinx replied.

“I greatly supported the suggestion for Harry Shill as our rodeo ambassador. In the past few years, our rodeo attendance has fallen off and this is sad since we have the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. I think Harry will do all he can to bring people to the rodeo and teach people about rodeo. He rode bulls for almost 50 years, so he knows the business. He will be a good rodeo ambassador,” Jayne said.

(Material on Harry Shill’s appointment was provided by Jayne Peace Pyle)

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