COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – There is no denying that committee members and the countless volunteers that donate their time each and every year are the true backbone of any PRCA Rodeo. The John Justin Standard of the West Award program, developed in the late 1980s, annually recognizes 100 behind-the-scenes recipients for their outstanding volunteer contribution to their local rodeo, with a grand prize winner being named the Justin Committeeman of the Year.
Bill Stephens, representing the Crossett (Ark.) Riding Club PRCA Rodeo, is the 2014 Justin Committeeman of the Year. Stephens, an Ag Loan Officer, has been involved with the rodeo for 18 years and has served on the Board of Directors for the past 12 years.
“I grew up in this area and remember coming to the rodeo when I was younger,” recalls Stephens, who now makes his home in Monticello, Ark., about 40 miles north of Crossett. “Our family farmed and going to the rodeo was the closest thing we got to a summer vacation.
“A few of my friends that I knew from high school rodeo and amateur rodeo got me involved with the committee and I worked the first five or six years doing whatever was needed. They then asked me to join the Board and I guess now I have held every office except treasurer.”
It was actually the rodeo committee treasurer Dr. Marty O’Fallon that nominated Stephens for this award and he was shocked to learn that he had won the award.
“It was total shock when I got the call,” said Stephens, who served as the Crossett Riding Club President for the 2013-2014 season. “I never dreamed anyone from our small rodeo would be up for an award like this much less win it. It is a huge honor.”
Stephens annually handles the sponsors and puts the appearance itinerary together for radio and TV for the week leading up to the rodeo.
“I work in sending out the sponsor letters and invoices and then coordinating all the radio and TV appearances leading up to and during the rodeo,” stated Stephens. “But I have done everything from fix water lines to whatever else was needed to make the rodeo run.”
During his time on the committee, Stephens has seen the rodeo grow, especially in the last five years.
“We have seen tremendous growth over the last five years with our added money going from $1,500 an event to $4,000,” Stephens said. “As a group, we dedicated ourselves to do more and really worked hard to get more sponsors. We put that money back into the purse and, as a result, we have seen an increase in the quality of contestants we are getting. We have really seen the growth in our roughstock events, as we always have a tough time getting the top guys that time of the year.”
One might wonder what keeps a guy like Stephens returning year after year.
“Seeing the rodeo grow like it has keeps it fresh and gives you motivation to see how far we can go,” said Stephens. “The friendships you make with everyone is probably the biggest thing that keeps me coming back as many of the committee, stock contractors, contract personnel, etc., are some of my best friends now.”
Stephens has been attending the Wrangler NFR for the past 10 years, but receiving this award will make the trip a bit different this time around, as the winner is recognized during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“Actually my wife and I had already decided we weren’t going to go this year but then when I got the call about this award, I told her we didn’t have a choice,” noted Stephens. “It is definitely a good reason to go to Vegas and I am truly shocked I won this award.”
Each year, 100 PRCA rodeos are selected to participate in the John Justin Standard of the West Award program with each one selecting an outstanding volunteer. Each recipient is awarded a custom embroidered pair of Justin Boots in recognition of their excellence. Then each October a ballot listing the 100 recipients is sent to every PRCA rodeo committee to vote for the Justin Committeeman or woman of the year.
“The Justin Boot Company takes a great deal of pride in our various programs designed to recognize those who not only support our western lifestyle, but go above and beyond in their individual contributions and dedication to the sport of pro rodeo. The Justin Boots’ Committeeman of the Year holds particular significance for us, as it was initiated by John Justin, Jr., a life-long supporter of rodeo and former rodeo committeeman with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. We salute the efforts of Bill Stephens in carrying this legacy forward,” said Randy Watson, Chairman and CEO of Justin Brands.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctions approximately 600 rodeos each year and appreciates the hard work and dedication that committee members and volunteers put in each year to make their rodeos happen.
“The Justin Committeeman of the Year is such a prestigious award because it represents the outstanding work of our rodeo committee personnel,” said PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman. “The majority of our PRCA rodeos are operated by volunteers who give of their personal time year after year because of their passion for ProRodeo. We couldn’t make our sport work without these great individuals. Congratulations to Bill Stephens and the Crossett Riding Club PRCA Rodeo.”
About Justin® Boot Company
With product lines including Justin Bent Rail™, the Stampede Collection™, the George Strait Collection™, and the Justin AQHA Lifestyle Collection™ – along with a prominent focus on producing best-in-class products handcrafted in the U.S. – Justin® Boot Company has been the leader in high-quality western footwear incorporating industry-leading boot technology for 135 years.
Justin Boots footwear products are available for men, women and children at western specialty stores across the country.
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
The PRCA, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., is the largest and oldest professional rodeo-sanctioning body in the world. The recognized leader in ProRodeo, the PRCA is committed to maintaining the highest standards. The PRCA, a membership-based organization, sanctions approximately 600 rodeos annually, and there are more than 30 million fans in the U.S. The PRCA showcases the world’s best cowboys by televising the sport’s premier events, including the Wrangler Champions Challenge and the world-renowned Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on CBS Sports Net (DISH channel 158, DirecTV channel 221). The Justin Boots Playoffs and Championships, Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, All American ProRodeo Finals, and the PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour will be aired on MAV-TV (DISH channel 248, DirecTV channel 214). PRCA-sanctioned rodeos raise more than $26 million for local and national charities. For comprehensive coverage of the cowboy sport, read the ProRodeo Sports News, the official publication of the PRCA, and for daily updates of news and results visit the PRCA’s official website, www.prorodeo.com.