History Of Rodeo at K-State Goes Back Beyond Seven Decades

The Tap Room and other cowboy cool-aid Aggieville gathering places of the college rodeo jocks would sure have some stories to tell.

It might have seemed a bit rowdy from time to time when arena dust settled for cowboys and cowgirls to get cozy with relaxing country fun celebration of success and always some weeping failure on the sawdust dance floor.

The K-State Rodeo Club has been active for 70 years and will celebrate that anniversary with special festivities Friday, Feb. 17, kicking off the 61st annual K-State Rodeo, February 17-18-19, at Manhattan.

Certain semblances are likely when seven decades of membership socialize with reflections at the anniversary of the K-State Rodeo Club.

It’ll all be part of the 61st annual K-State Rodeo, February 17-18-19, at Manhattan, announced Miss Rodeo K-State Brooke Wallace, who’s helped club and rodeo team alumni in logistics of special activities.

Although many former club and rodeo team members are expected to spend the  weekend remembering the ‘good old days,’ a special K-State Rodeo Club alumni event is scheduled Friday,  Feb. 17, from 4:30, to about 7 o’clock, in time for all to attend the rodeo performance. 

“It promises to be a grand time celebrating 70 years of the K-State Rodeo Club,” Wallace assured. “Alumni and friends are encouraged to attend and be part of this interactive social in the Stanley Stout Center at 2200 Denison Avenue.”

Seven decades ago, rodeo enthusiasts attending K-State decided to form their own group, separate from other campus animal science, agriculture and athletic activities.

Details are somewhat scant, as many of those original members are not around, but it was originally called the Chaparajos, then Chaps Club. Year of name change isn’t certain, but speculation is “Chaps,” became the K-State Rodeo Club in the late ’60s.

It’s said during formative and growing years, there was uneasiness between the rodeo group, and other agriculture and animal science leadership on campus. That’s resolved in the decades, for the K-State Rodeo Club to become one of the most recognized ambitious influential working university organizations.

Of course, rodeo is objective of such a group, and several members are said to have heard about the intercollegiate rodeo hosted by Cal Poly team at the Cow Palace near San Francisco.

Several Kansas college cowboys went, competed, had fun, came back to K-State determined to have a college rodeo in Manhattan.

It took a while, and logistics were complex. For many years, Ahearn Field House hosted the K-State Rodeo, requiring construction of portable arena complete with chutes. Even when Weber Arena became available, the rodeo was still in Ahearn for several years, with safety concerns about the animal science facilities.

The rodeo’s been at Weber since the mid-‘70s. This year’s K-State Rodeo is expected to attract 15,000 fans there, whether you’re a K-State alumnus, supporter of the program, or any fan of the sport,” said K-State Rodeo Coach Casy Winn, currently in his second year with the program.

“We sure encourage everyone to attend the K-State Rodeo Club alumni gathering Friday afternoon,” Wallace welcomed. “Bring your old K-State Rodeo Club and Team photos, buckles, letter jackets and anything of historic significance.

“This will be an opportunity to take pictures and be part of a new history page on the K-State Rodeo website,” Wallace said. A book with pages for each of the 70 years will be available for rodeo alumni to fill in officers, team members, memories and experiences.

“An update on facilities and scholarships will be provided. Refreshments will be served and door prizes awarded in time for the evening rodeo performance. Come join the fun,” Wallace welcomed.

One K-State Rodeo Club alumni working to make sure all of those a part of K-State Rodeo are aware of the social this weekend is D.K. Hewitt, who served as rodeo club president in 1971.

“Do we have Facebook page for K-State Rodeo Alums? It’d be a place we could reach old members,” Hewitt said in an email to a limited group interested in K-State Rodeo. 

“We could connect with others we know, and encourage everybody who signs up to get their email address on some private list. Then we could at least know where people, what they’re doing, how to keep track, and what ones are who’s still around. 

“The 70th celebration of rodeo at K-State should at least enable us to count backward and know those ‘originals’ from the mid-1940s would’ve been born around the mid-1920s.” said Hewitt.

Interested persons can send information to bb_ranch@hotmail.com.

“Over the past 70 years, students from across the country have made countless memories through involvement in the K-State Rodeo Club, according to Emilie Fink, assistant director of development at the KSU Foundation.

“As the cost of attendance and facility maintenance soars higher and higher, private support from alumni and friends provides critical resources for the program, and the people involved with the K-State Rodeo Cub and Team.

“With a goal of increasing the amount of rodeo scholarship dollars awarded by 10 to 15 percent, a commitment to enhancing facilities used for rodeo activities and the need for program support, each gift to K-State Rodeo makes a difference,” insisted Fink, who can be contacted at emilief@found.ksu.edu or 785-532-7571.