Cowboy hats — and people wearing them — filled the stands of Weber Arena Friday and Saturday as the K-State Rodeo Club hosted the 56th annual K-State Rodeo. The event continues at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Julia Kaufman, rodeo club president, and Michael Wimer, rodeo club vice president, said Friday night’s performance drew the biggest crowd for a Friday night the club has ever seen. Kaufman noted it was nearly sold out.
“For being a club sport, we definitely bring in a big crowd,” Kaufman said.
Wimer said attendance could approach 15,000 for the weekend.
That’s good news for the club because the rodeo is its biggest event and fundraiser of the year. Riders from 23 universities in the Central Plains region competed in nine sanctioned events. Men’s events include bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping and steer wrestling. Women’s events include barrel racing, goat tying and break-away roping. Both men and women compete in the team roping event.
K-State’s club includes 40 members, of varying skill levels, but only 15 members compete. Women competing include Kaufman, Blair Askew, Stephanie Durkes, Elli Ouellette, Abbey Pomeroy, Erin Sage, Cally Thomas and Morgan Lindsay. Men competing include Wimer, Gage Blair, JD Holland, Chris Johnston, Richard Kirmer, Vince Ouellette and Kris Wittman.
Kaufman said some members have been competing in rodeos since they were five years old, although the group is pretty varied overall. There’s a place for everyone, though. Younger less experienced members are guided by more experienced members.
“We’ve got a couple of new freshmen that really don’t know too much about it, but they’re just excited to learn, and they’ve been a huge help,” Kaufman said.
The members who don’t compete work hard to organize the rodeo. Wimer said it really takes a strong work ethic and good management skills to put on such an event.
“There’s a lot, a lot, a lot of work to put on this rodeo with this university that a lot of people don’t see,” Wimer said.
Judging by the crowd, one thing is certain, people are drawn to rodeo.
“It’s definitely a very exciting sport,” Kaufman said. “I think it just interests people because it’s so much different than a basketball or football game, which a lot of people have grown up with.”
Others, like Wimer, naturally gravitated to the sport.
“My dad has been involved in this since 1972 when he was in school here,” Wimer said. “I just kinda fell into it.”
Wimer noted his brother served as the club’s vice president. He didn’t start riding broncs until he got to college. It’s an experience that is almost indescribable.
“When you have a good ride and everything’s in motion, it’s an adrenaline rush like you’ve never felt,” Wimer said. “To be able to be one with the animal you’re on is a feel.”
Wimer added, “Some people like to do drama, Some people like to play baseball and we like to rodeo.”