By Ted Harbin, Wrangler Network contributor
McALESTER, Okla. – For the first time since 2009, professional rodeo is returning to McAlester.
Local officials have teamed with Hi Lo ProRodeo to produce and promote the Choctaw Casino’s McAlester ProRodeo Presented by Sam Wampler’s Freedom Ford, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 12-13, at the Southeast Expo Center.
“McAlester is a rodeo town, and people here are excited about it,” said Jeff Warmuth, the president and CEO of the McAlester Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve already put some information on Facebook, and we’ve had a lot of people commenting and sharing that information. You can really sense the excitement.”
The rodeo is the perfect match for McAlester. The largest town in southeastern Oklahoma with a population of about 18,000, it is a regional hub for a number of other communities in the region.
“I think the way the chambers look at themselves today in a regional footprint, our members are not bound by city limits,” Warmuth said. “Communication is not bound by city limits. We can reach a lot of people in the surrounding 120-mile radius. It gives our community an opportunity to show off something great.”
As most folks in this part of the world know, the McAlester ProRodeo will be a true display of family-friendly entertainment mixed with world-class competition. Oklahoma is well known for its rodeo prowess, with world champions coming from all corners of the Sooner State.
As part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the event will feature the very best in the game, including the team from Hi Lo ProRodeo, the fastest growing rodeo company in the United States. In fact, the McAlester ProRodeo is the brainchild of Dustin Murray, a former PRCA bareback rider who now serves as the Hi Lo ProRodeo general manager.
“Dustin brought it to our attention, and we really weren’t looking for an event of this scale at the time,” Warmuth said. “The Chamber of Commerce has a history of helping put on the prison rodeo in McAlester. The last prison rodeo was in 2009, but the chamber had been involved for many years.
“By bringing up the idea of having another rodeo in McAlester, it brought up the memories of what the chamber had with those prison rodeos, so we gravitated toward it. There are a lot of people excited for rodeo to come back to McAlester. This is the first step in bringing rodeo back to our community. We’re looking for capacity seating on both nights. We have good seating and excellent ticket prices, and we’re going to have great talent.”
That talent includes “Backflip” Johnny Dudley, an athletic former Marine who provides comic relief through both performances. As a barrelman and entertainer, he showcases a mixture of comedic acts and timing with his natural athleticism.
The McAlester ProRodeo will be a first-class operation. About 700 yards of dirt and 35 tons of portable rodeo arena will be taken into the expo center for the event. In addition, a video board will be in use to give fans that another viewpoint and to showcase replays of the runs, rides and antics that take place inside the building.
“We believe in Hi Lo productions,” Warmuth said. “We have a good feeling about them as an organization, and we’ve already demonstrated that we’re able to get sponsors excited about this event. We can see the future where this can be a three-day event for our community.
“We want to make sure the families are getting a lot of value out of the event. We have hopes about growing this rodeo into more days and more opportunities and growing that excitement in McAlester. Once it’s over, we want the community to be ready to buy tickets for the one next year.”
It’s been more than six years since Pittsburg County hosted a ProRodeo. The time is right for new beginnings.
Courtesy of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo