K-State Rodeo: The home of memory and family

The K-State Rodeo Cowboys and Cowgirls mastering their caft. While the animals show of their beauty and skill. (Reece Bachta | Collegian Media Group)

“Every cowboy has a story of the Kansas State Rodeo. They remember the crowd … they are here to compete but are also here as a family,” Garrett Panzer, Dodge City agriculture welding teacher and 2023 K-State Rodeo judge, said. “They leave with nothing but memories.” 

Panzer said he has helped with rodeos all over Kansas and surrounding states. He grew up around farms, feedlots and playing football, but he said he has never seen a sight quite like the K-State Rodeo.

Panzer said he believes the rodeo has many parallels to his job as a teacher.

“The rodeo is an extension of the classroom,” Panzer said. “There are rules to be followed, and I enforce those rules.”

Panzer said the K-State Rodeo helps to “preserve the unique lifestyle” and “continue the heritage” that is Western-American life. He said it is an excellent stepping stone for young men and women who want to compete in professional rodeos, and he is happy to be a part of that process.

Panzer values the sense of family among rodeo competitors and cites a unique act of kindness as an example. When a barrel racer couldn’t compete with her horse, she reached out to a friend and fellow competitor, who offered her best horse for the barrel racer to use.

Many aspects of the rodeo make it unique to K-State. Weber Arena is short in length, resembling the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas. This creates timing challenges that make penalties and non-finishing times more common. The arena is built like a bowl, with the crowd sitting up over the rodeo. This can be intimidating for those who haven’t competed before. The bowl arena amplifies an already chaotic crowd and can be incredibly distracting.

“Each year, Wildcats flock to Weber Arena after a week of fervently searching for tickets to ensure their spot in the bleachers,” Lauren Osborne, junior in strategic communications, said.

As advertising chair for the Rodeo Executive Board and a barrel racer, Osborne said the energy brought by the crowd was a beautiful sight to see.

“[It] exemplifies how much Wildcats cherish and value each other,” Osborne said. “Like we always say, ‘EMAW!’”

Osborne said she is overjoyed to be a competitor and member of an event that inspires kids.

“I’ve seen and met several young kids … who look up to us competitors, which is a really special feeling knowing that I was once that young kid,” Osborne said.

Rebecca George, graduate from the University of New England who is furthering her studies at K-State through the Angus Australia Foundation, said the K-State Rodeo was her first rodeo experience. 

“It is a great representation of the ag lifestyle many students love,” George said.

She said she believes the rodeo is a great way for students and Manhattan residents alike to support their athletes. 

“It is an event for all different types of people to come together and enjoy the rodeo entertainment and culture,” George said.

The deep history of our agriculture program and the pride our Wildcat cowboys and cowgirls have in their craft are on full display at the Rodeo. The spirit of the rodeo is something that penetrates the soul of every heart that watches. The K-State Rodeo is a creature that is as alive and beautiful as a Kansas cotton candy sunset over the prairie. 

“The relationships and memories I’ve made through the K-State Rodeo are ones that I will treasure forever,” Osborne said. “When the Wabash begins as a competitor with a purple vest enters the arena and every spectator jumps up, the loving community of K-State is illuminated and embodies the K-State values statement — ‘We live by the purple rule: Family comes first.’”

(Photo by Joel Wood | Collegian Media Group)