Flint Hills were made for cattle. Cowboys on horseback are the caretakers. Rodeo is their sport.
E.C. “Emmett” Roberts was a cowboy whose children inherited his naturally instinctive abilities with horses and cattle.
Riding bucking horses and bulls became as much or more fun than roping a wild Brahma cow or bulldogging a rank Longhorn steer.
Weeklong work extended to Sunday afternoon games, when Roberts and his children challenged each other and neighbors’ cowboy-abilities right out in the pasture at their Chase County ranch.
As friendly-rivalry heightened, they decided to have a full-pledged competition. The First Annual Chase County Rodeo was in 1938, being renamed the Flint Hills Rodeo the following year.
The rest is history.
One of the first professionally sanctioned rodeos in the United States, the Flint Hills Rodeo has the distinction of being the oldest continuous-running rodeo in Kansas.
Set May 31 through June 2, the “rodeo of all rodeos” uses the same arena E.C. Roberts built 64 years ago in his front yard along Highway 50 just north of Strong City.
Three of Roberts’ six children, Marge, Ken and Gerald, went on to become rodeo champions of the world.
Roberts Rodeo Company became renowned in producing professional rodeos throughout the Midwest.
Many world champions spent time in the Roberts home, crediting the family and the
rodeo as an influential part of their achievements. Today, most cowboys looking for a world championship include the Flint Hills Rodeo among their stops.
“The Roberts’ family achievements in the sport of rodeo are an important part of
rodeo’s history and a source of community pride,” emphasized Jason Lewis, president of the Flint Hills Rodeo Association.
“This year’s celebration of the 75th anniversary rodeo as a complete entertainment package may be the greatest ever,” Lewis claimed. “We will literally have something for everyone to enjoy.
“We’re really happy to have David Bailey Rodeo Company, Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, in a return engagement with his world renowned livestock,” Lewis said.
“Contestants will include several world champions and National Finals Rodeo qualifiers as well as up-and-coming rookies and many local ranch cowboys,” Lewis verified.
Bailey commented, “It is always amazing to see a town the size of Strong City with a population of 500 jam the stands full. They’re planning to have an enormous and entertaining jubilee.”
The world-acclaimed Budweiser Hitch will be back after being lead-attraction for the
50thanniversary Flint Hills Rodeo.
According to Chase County Agent Mike Holder, who helped with logistics then and now, “The Budweiser Hitch is a group of Clydesdale horses used for promotions and commercials by the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company at St. Louis, Missouri.
“There are eight horses driven at one time, but ten horses are on each team to provide alternates for the hitch when needed. Two obedience-trained Dalmatian dogs also travel with the hitch,” said Holder, noting the horses will be housed at the Chase County Fairgrounds in Cottonwood Falls.
The team will perform in Thursday and Friday rodeo performances, beginning at 8 o’clock, and also be part of Saturday’s Flint Hills Rodeo Parade, at 2 p.m., starting in Cottonwood Falls, and concluding at the rodeo.
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Entertainer of the Year Jerry Diaz is scheduled for all three performances, including Saturday at 8 o’clock.
“Diaz is not only respected for his Mexican Charro-style rope artistry, but he is also known for his horsemanship and training ability,” credited Jerry Hedrick, who was instrumental in contracting the act.
“He is being sponsored by the Saddle and Sirloin Club of Kansas City and Purina
Feeds as a gift to their many friends in the Flint Hills,” added Hedrick, a club member and Purina event announcer.
“Many Saddle and Sirloin trail rides have been hosted by Flint Hills ranches, and the 2012 ride will be during the rodeo at the Division Ranch, owned by Guy Pickard and managed by Jason Lewis,” Hedrick added
An important part of the Jerry Diaz program is his wife, Staci, and their eight-year-old son, Nicolas.
Comedy routines are another highlight of each performance featuring rodeo clown John Harrison, Soper, Oklahoma, grandson of legendary bull rider Freckles Brown.
Roger Mooney, Ellijay, Georgia, announces from the back of his black and white spotted horse, Rolex.
Thursday night honors the military, and all military personnel and retirees with appropriate identification are admitted free. Historical Flint Hills ranches are to be recognized during pre-rodeo activities on Friday.
A kid’s stick horse race is planned Thursday and Friday before the rodeo, which
features traditional rodeo events, along with nightly calf scrambles for children.
The trade show is to be open each evening, and a dance, featuring Lonnie Patterson,
Thursday and Friday, and Rusty Rierson on Saturday, follows the performances.
A 75th anniversary commemorative belt buckle auction is at 7:30, Saturday, with Col. Carla Harrison, as auctioneer.