59th annual K-State Rodeo draws off-campus viewers

Logan Patterson, of Oklahoma Panhandle State University, rides a bucking bronco during the bareback competition at Sundays KSU Rodeo. The 59th annual event, organized by K-State Rodeo, was held at Weber Arena Feb. 19-22, 2015. (Evert Nelson | Collegian)

Buckin’, bull ridin’ and ropin’ were only one-third of the activities held at the K-State Rodeo over the weekend. Although the stands were full during the three days of competition, student attendance remained low.

“It’s one of the biggest events held on campus, outside of K-State football and men’s basketball,” Jackie Neville, senior in agricultural economics and K-State Rodeo Club facility chair, said. “Not enough people know about it.”

This year marked the rodeo’s 59th year of competitions. Held in Weber Arena, the rodeo hosted a total of nine events over the weekend starting on Friday with finals on Sunday.

“It’s the best rodeo of the year in the central plain region,” Kory Keeth, junior from Northeast Oklahoma A&M College, said.

Keeth was the announcer during the three days of events and said they packed the stands every night.

“I would say today we had about 2,500 people in this place,” Keeth said. “For a Sunday afternoon performance that’s a lot of people. There wouldn’t even be 500 people at another central plains rodeo on championship Sunday.”

Keeth said there were over 3,300 attendees on Saturday, which usually draws the biggest crowd.

K-State is known as an agriculture school, even ranking several doctoral programs in the top 10 in 2013, according to PHDs.org. Even though knowledge of the agriculture department remains low in students not involved with the programs, that doesn’t mean word about the rodeo hasn’t reached them.

“A lot of people think rodeo is bad, but really it’s us presenting what we do on an every day basis, just in a competitive form,” Keeth said. “Cowboys and cowgirls have been taking care of livestock since the beginning of time and this is just our way at competing at it.”

Malia Young, sophomore in interior architecture and product design, has attended rodeos throughout her life growing up near Salina, Kansas, but was unable to attend the K-State Rodeo this weekend.

“I wanted to go, but just didn’t have the time,” Young said.

With all of the schoolwork students have during the week, they aren’t always free on weekends to enjoy outside activities. For others, common misconceptions about rodeos may drive them away from attending.

“Some people that come out to the rodeo think the livestocks mishandled, but it’s really not,” said Dale Hirschman, official photographer and chapman for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association central plains division.

Hirschman has attended K-State rodeos since 1976 as a freshman competing on Southwestern Oklahoma State University’s Rodeo team. According to him, the animals used during the rodeos are in a breeding program, and some are conditioned to build extra muscle to perform at a higher level.

“Just like you have racehorses, these horses are bucking horses,” Hirschman said. “They love to do it.”

Students or community members are encouraged to come out and enjoy the rodeo, even if they are new to the sport.

“A lot of them don’t understand the sport of rodeo, which makes my job really fun,” Keeth said. “By the end of the night they leave here with the knowledge of the game.”

Evert Nelson graduated in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2016. He worked as Photo Editor for the Summer 2016 Collegian and 2012 Royal Purple Yearbook. He also worked as staff photojournalist and reporter during his time as student.