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WPRA History on Display at ProRodeo Hall of Fame

By Ann Bleiker

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – In anticipation of the 2017 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on August 5, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association opened a historical exhibit on Friday, March 31.

This exhibit will be housed in the 101 Gallery at the front of the Hall until September 1. Visitors can learn the history of the Association from when 38 women met in a hotel room in San Angelo, Texas, in 1948 to start the Association called the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) through the historic 2017 ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductions, that will include barrel racers for the first time ever. In addition, there is a flair for fashion clothing display showing the clothing trends through the years, a look back at the 1988 and 2002 Olympic Command Performance Rodeos held during the Olympic Games in Calgary and Salt Lake City, respectively and a Horsepower section honoring the horses that have been awarded with honors such as AQHA Horse of the Year, Horse With the Most Heart and Rising Star Award.

“I am thrilled with the new partnership between the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and the WPRA,” said Kent Sturman, Director ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy. “Not only will we now honor the women who excel in the sport of barrel racing, but with this exhibit, we can educate our guests and fans about the history of the WPRA and promote this important segment of the sport of professional rodeo. These outstanding women have been instrumental in advancing this event and they deserve to be celebrated.”

As announced on March 28, the two individuals and one equine partner that will be honored in the inaugural WPRA Hall of Fame class include Wanda Harper Bush, Charmayne James and a joint PRCA/WPRA equine inductee Star Plaudit “Red.” They will be joined by the PRCA inductees which include Buck Rutherford (All-Around), Enoch Walker (Saddle Bronc), Cody Custer (Bull Riding), Tommy Puryear (Steer Wrestling), Mike Beers (Team Roping), Randy Corley (Contract Personnel), Bob Ragsdale (Notable), Smith & Velvet (Livestock) and Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo (Committee).

Wanda Harper Bush was multitalented, becoming the most decorated cowgirl in the history of the WPRA (formerly the Girls Rodeo Association). When the GRA first formed in 1948, Bush was one of the first to sign-up. All totaled she won 32 world titles – nine all-around (1952, 1957-58, 1962-65, 1968 and 1969), two barrel racing titles (1952-53), two cutting world titles (1966, 1969), one flag race world title (1969), 11 calf roping titles (1951-56, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966-67) and seven ribbon roping titles (1951, 1953-54, 1956-59). She finished as reserve world champion in the barrel racing three different times. While Bush’s barrel racing world titles came before the NFR began, she qualified seven times (1959-60, ’62-65, and ’74) for the NFR during her career.

Bush will be inducted posthumously having passed away on Dec. 29, 2015.

Charmayne James, who grew up in Clayton, N.M., the home of the very first barrel racing National Finals Rodeo in 1959, won the first of 10 consecutive world titles at the young age of 14 in 1984. James was the first WPRA member to wear the coveted No. 1 back number in 1987 and became the first barrel racer to cross the $1 million record in career earnings. In addition to the 10 consecutive world titles (1984-1993), James and Scamper won the NFR average title six times (1984, 1986-87, 1989-90 and 1993). In 1996, Scamper became the first barrel horse and only barrel horse (until 2017) to be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

James would add a cherry on top of her illustrious career returning to the top of the sport aboard Cruiser (Cruisin on Six) in 2002, winning her 11th world title and seventh NFR average title.

Bringing symbolism to this new chapter in the history of the PRCA and WPRA is best summed up with the induction the horse known as Star Plaudit “Red.”

Star Plaudit holds a very unique record in the world of professional rodeo, one that is not likely to ever be duplicated. The bay gelding won two World Championships in the sport in a single year and contributed to a third, at the age of 12. Red, as he was affectionately known, carried his owner Sherry (Combs) Johnson to the GRA World title in the barrel racing and close family friend Tom Nesmith to the RCA world title in the steer wrestling and helped the Oklahoman also claim the RCA All Around championship, all in 1962.

The ProRodeo Hall of Fame, which is a popular Colorado Springs attraction for rodeo fans and tourists alike, has already inducted 250 people, 27 rodeo committees and 31 animals. The 2017 ProRodeo Hall of Fame Inductions will take place at 10 a.m. MT on Aug. 5, 2017 in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Hall of Fame is currently open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday. Starting May 1 – Aug. 31 they will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. More information can be found at www.prorodeohalloffame.com.

ProRodeo Hall of Fame WPRA Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Photos by Suni Olkjer

Courtesy of WPRA