Every year since 1954 the Spooner Rodeo has packed in crowds of people, both locals and out-of- towners, everyone enjoying the contests that were originally started out west when our country was new and cattle were an integral part of a cowboy's life.
This event is always held on the first full weekend in July, starting on Thursday and running through Saturday night; Three shows, seven main events, and there are some things that the public may not know about this long-running event.
First of all, the Heart of the North Rodeo, better known as the Spooner Rodeo, is just one stop on a long series of stops for would-be money maker contestants. Each stop in the circuit affords the cowboy or gal, a certain amount of money, or purse. A dedicated and talented contestant could earn up to a half of a million dollars in one year traveling the circuit.
Spooner paid out 108,000.00 dollars to their winners this year alone.
The rodeo didn't start out as, but has become a charitable organization under the 501 (c)-4 heading, which means they need someone to donate to, some social welfare organization that is a not-for-profit organization which operates solely to promote social welfare.
The committee chose the Washburn County Fair Grounds their beneficiary and have improved the space and the buildings they share with the fair by providing new bleachers and bathroom updates that cost a quarter of a million dollars, a storage building, a sound building, a small concession building, updates to the secretary's building, creating a 'medical' building on-site to house the chiropractors that tend the riders, especially the bareback riders, with adjustments before and after their performance, VIP sections and a remodel to the oldest bathroom., investing a half of a million dollars into this shared space since 1993.
The rodeo runs as well as it does do to advanced planning. According to Dick Fankhauser, rodeo chairman, they've already got their print information done ready to be taken to the tourist's shows, their ads in magazines and they've got their clowns hired and their acts for next year.
For an event to be successful year after year, it has to have consistently good leadership.
That sounds like an understatement, but to put on an event this big each year, it takes planning, a whole lot of planning and this committee makes sure they are well ahead of their deadline dates, ahead by a year, that is.
Something else you might not know about the rodeo is what they call slack. Because many more contestants sign up to compete than they can showcase during the three performances, there is a special slack section not necessarily for the public, where these contestants are able to perform their skills.
This year alone there were 119 barrel racers that signed up when only 36 were needed for the three official performances. Everyone pays an entrance fee and these cowboys and gals are given an even chance to compete, but outside the rodeo venue.
There are special off-site provisions made for them with their horses and trailers near by and these are the people the public never sees when they do their thing. Which works for those who just want to participate, place and leave.
Another thing some people don't realize is that there are different performers each night. So if you're impressed with one or two of them on Thursday night, don't come to Friday's performance and expect to see them again, they're already off to another rodeo in another town.
There is an ambulance on the grounds for each performance and if one is needed to transport someone to the hospital, a second ambulance has to be supplied before the rodeo can continue.
For the last sixty-four years, from its very inception, the Spooner Rodeo has been associated with the Barnes PRCA Rodeo Company who has supplied the high-quality stock, Contract Acts, Rodeo Announcer and all necessary personnel for the rodeo.
In 1975 the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association (PRCA) took on their new name and never looked back. The organization boasts over 7000 members and it sanctions over 600 rodeos a year and the Spooner Rodeo work hand-in-glove with the PRCA.
This year was number 64 for the rodeo and it's due to its exceptional leaders, along with committee members who are dedicated to doing a superior job year after year.
Ever since 1985, when Fankhauser was elected Chairman, having joined the rodeo to sell tickets in 1978, he's never looked back; that's 32 years of dedicated service.
Originally the rodeo was an event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, but it's created its own persona and it was in 1993 that it was Incorporated and became a Non-Profit / Charitable and IRS tax-exempt Organization.
Dick Fankhauser was born a farm boy near Rice Lake He grew up riding horses and had his own horse until he sold it to buy his first car, a used 1955 Ford.
It was at a Badger Boys convention where a State Trooper spoke that made Dick consider law enforcement. But first the Army. He was trained in cryptography repair and sent to Korea for twenty-one months. This is where he met his future wife, Kim Myong Sim or as they call her, Kim. When he got out of the service, he went back to get her. He came back to the US without her though due to endless paperwork that had to be done; she joined him eight months later. Their first child was born nine months and eight days later.
Meanwhile he had joined the State Patrol, interviewing for the job the day she landed from Korea, and then they spend the next thirty and a half years being transferred from Tomah to New Richmond, then to Park Falls, Menomonie and finally to Spooner for the last twenty years of his service with the state.
This last rodeo has been one of their best with a total ticket sales of $162,000.00 with approximately 16,500 fans attending the rodeo. Sixty-five percent of whom bought advanced tickets. This has become such a successful event that last year when the tickets went on sale October 2, there was over $5000 garnered in sales that same day.
Because of the rodeo' great reputation, supporters like Tombstone Pizza, Superor Beverages LLC, and Jack Link's Protein Snacks Have been with the Spooner Rodeo for many years. Tombstone Pizza which has gone through a number of ownership changes over the years, the latest being the Nestle Company, has been a consistent supporter all these years.
It's that kind of loyalty and dedication that makes the Spooner Rodeo such a success for not only the rodeo, but for the town in general and the surrounding area.
Mutton Bustin, the exceptional rodeo, the Sunday church service on the grounds and the yearly royalty and the incredible rodeo parade and the bands on each night of the rodeo all combine to bring an amazing series of events to the area; long live the Spooner Rodeo and all those that serve to make her so great.