story by Kim Souza
The John Henry Shaddox Wagon Train made the 71-mile, six-day trip from Harrison to Springdale just in time to usher in the 70th annual Rodeo of the Ozarks and take the lead position in the annual rodeo parade at 3 p.m. Wednesday (July 2).
This year 13 wagons and more than 100 riders on horseback make up the train which left Harrison on Friday (June 27). This is the wagon train’s 37th year to kick-off the annual PRCA rodeo event held at Parson’s Stadium. The gates open at 6:30 this evening and the rodeo will run nightly through Saturday, July 5.
Rodeo of the Ozarks is one of the top five outdoor rodeo events in the country for the past several years, according to Tom Reed, longtime supporter and former rodeo board member.
“We have a big celebration planned again this year with something for all ages to enjoy. The Mutton Bustin’ and Goat Dressin’ always gets the kids involved. Some of the world’s top cowboys and cowgirls will come through here this week trying to add to their winnings in hopes of making it to the national finals in Las Vegas later this year,” said Tex Holt, rodeo board member.
Holt said 200 trailers have already pulled into the rodeo ground and roughly 150 volunteers have signed on to help with the four-day rodeo. More than 400 cowboys and cowgirls from around the country have signed up to participate in this year’s event. In celebration of its 70th year, Holt said there will be a hospitality tent where rodeo patrons can sit down, enjoy a drink and listen to live music each night after the riding events.
Rodeo officials said this year’s purse will award more than $100,000 in cash winnings for the top riders in each category in accordance with PRCA rules and guidelines. The local rodeo association’s contribution to the purse is $70,000, which is $10,000 per event.
“The higher payout is designed to draw the best professionals in the sport to Springdale, given that there are more than 20 PRCA rodeos taking place this week,” Holt said.
Rodeo officials recently outlined an aggressive plan to overhaul and update Parson’s Stadium, a local landmark in its own right.
Reed, who chairs the foundation committee for rodeo ground improvements, said the preliminary plans call for five phases of work. He said the committee has contractors and engineers reviewing the plans to determine a budget for how much the full overhaul will cost.
“We should get those budget projections back in the next 60 days,” Reed said.
The first phase will deal with concession, restroom and parking improvements. Roofing the arena is phase two as it would provide year-round usage for the facility, now only used in temperate weather. Reed said phase three would move the bucking shoot to the east side of the area, which would also get new covered bleachers, to match the covered permanent seating on the west side of the arena.
Stage four would include the construction of a new multipurpose building on the north side of the grounds that would offer meeting rooms that could used by civic and community organizations. A restaurant would also be part of this new building on the north side as well as a museum.
Lastly, Reed said plans also allow for the construction of a separate barn facility on the south side of the site to house livestock which could be used for horse shows and other 4H-related showing events.
“Right now we are assessing the costs and we hope to get busy raising funds very soon. The city and community leaders have been very supportive of this plan as it plays well into the renovate downtown Springdale efforts,” Reed said.