Rodeo boss Bill Armstrong is touting the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo a huge hit partly because it attracted some of the PRCA’s finest and most well known cowboys.
Armstrong says his motto is “the better the cowboys the better the rodeo.”
Among the big names who showed up May 20 and 21 at Payson Event Center were Rick Kieckhefer, Joseph Parsons, Cutter Parsons, Wyatt Hancock, Rube Woolsey and D.V. Fennell.
To local fans, Kieckhefer might be the most familiar because he’s been competing in Payson rodeos since the late 1990s and lives nearby in Prescott.
At the Gary Hardt Memorial, Kieckhefer finished second in the chase for all-around money. His biggest paycheck of the rodeo, $10,88.70, was earned in the tie down roping with a time of 9.1 seconds.
There’s no wonderment in rodeo circles why Kieckhefer is a top cowboy on the PRCA circuit. His grandfather, Chuck Sheppard was the 1946 team-roping champion and has been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
His father was a longtime rodeo contestant and is a PRCA stock contractor.
Kieckhefer has PRCA career earnings of $276,979 and in 2005 finished 19th in the world standings with $51,135.
Woolsey is another frequent competitor at Payson having grown up in Casa Grande before attending Central Arizona College, a popular school among Payson High graduates.
In 2006, Woolsey won the Hardt Memorial team roping with Tom Bill Johnson.
As a part of a roping team, Woolsey is the header whose job is to do just what the name suggests — rope the head of the cow. Once the catch is made, he dallies and turns the steer to the left allowing his partner, the heeler, to rope both hind legs.
During his 21-year PRCA career, Woolsey has won more than $394,000.
Many fans in attendance at the rodeo have followed Hancock’s career mostly because he was raised in Taylor and went to Snowflake High School. In 1997 and 1998 he qualified for the National High School Finals and went on to compete for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
He is the younger brother of 2000 World Champion bull rider Cody Hancock, another cowboy who frequents Payson rodeos.
Hancock calls his best ride the one in which he filled his PRCA permit on a horse named Okie Robin in Elko, Nev. to score 82 points and win the event.
At Payson last week, he scored a 79 aboard “Cowtown” and was second.
Cutter and Joseph Parson are from a Marana area family that has long been a staple on the PRCA circuit. Others in the family who compete are Charlie Parsons, Joe Parsons, Clay Parsons and Erin and Emily Parsons.
At the Hardt Memorial, Cutter tied for fourth in the tie-down roping in 10.1. Joseph was third in 9.6.
Although Armstrong was elated with those cowboys who turned out for the Hardt Memorial, he’s already making the circuit rounds hoping to attract even more for the upcoming World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo.
“That’s a rodeo boss’ job,” he says.