“This is not only a time for inducting, but it’s also for past winners and people who worked with them through the years,” he said. “They relax and renew old friendships.” 

click to enlarge Ote-Berry-LR.jpg

A full decade before the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum opened its doors, the Rodeo Hall of Fame began honoring the achievements of barrel racers, steer wrestlers, bull riders and other exemplars of rodeo mastery.

When the 61st annual Rodeo Hall of Fame Inductions and Awards Weekend inducts the new slate of honorees with a 5:30 p.m. Sept. 30 cocktail reception and a 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1 Champions’ Dinner and awards ceremony, it will uphold one of the museum’s most important missions.

“One of the primary functions of our organization at the time it was founded was considered to be the honoring and recognition of rodeo champions,” said Don Reeves, McCasland chairman of Cowboy Culture at National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. “Our founder and benefactor, Chester Reynolds, had seen the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore and thought that there were a lot of other individuals that should be honored, and one of those areas was rodeo.”
Since its beginning, the Rodeo Hall of Fame has inducted 381 rodeo legends. This year’s honorees include team roper Jake Barnes, steer wrestler Ote Berry, team roper Clay O’Brien Cooper, steer wrestler and educator Walt Linderman, bareback rider Dan O. “Bud” Monroe and barrel racer Jimmie Gibbs Munroe and bullfighter Wick Peth. The recipient of the Tad Lucas Memorial Award is paraplegic barrel racer Amberley Snyder,  and the recipient of the Ben Johnson Memorial Award is world champion steer wrestler Jack Roddy. Members of this year’s induction class will participate in a question-and-answer session at 11 a.m. Oct. 1 at the museum.

Linderman, the only posthumous honoree at this year’s event, won the National Finals Rodeo’s steer wrestling aggregate title, one of the most coveted awards in professional rodeo, in 1967 and was second place in the world rodeo standings in 1966, 1970 and 1971. In 1968, Linderman founded the first of several steer wrestling schools around the country.

“This was early, 1968, and what he was trying to do was pass on from his family — a heralded rodeo family — that skill and how to do that without getting hurt,” Reeves said. “His contribution to the youth through putting on these steer wrestling schools across the country did a lot for the sport.”

Reeves said Rodeo Hall of Fame Inductions and Awards Weekend is more than a celebration; it’s a kind of family reunion. Active and veteran rodeo champions hail from Washington state to Florida and all points in between, so for many of the retired riders, it’s a chance to see former competitors.

“This is not only a time for inducting, but it’s also for past winners and people who worked with them through the years,” he said. “They relax and renew old friendships.”

Following a dip in popularity that the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) reports was the result of the 2008 recession, rodeo has bounced back in popularity and participation.

The PRCA sanctioned 624 rodeo national events in 2015, and Reeves said the sport’s continued success has a lot to do with the rural-to-urban migration, which leads many former ranchers and farmers to find ways to preserve their heritage.

“There are more and more folks who were raised in a rural environment or in a ranching environment who go off to the city where they can make a living, and for a lot of those people, this is a chance for them to get back to their roots,” he said. “It’s something that’s ingrained in the national identity of America.”

Package tickets are $145 for museum members or $170 for general admission. Visit loverodeo.org.

Print Headline: Galloping glory; Rodeo Hall of Fame Weekend gives a tip of the hat to champions.

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