All in the Family

By: Dianna Palmer

Four generations of the Roberts family have volunteered with the Days of ’76 rodeo

Pat Roberts (on the left) and his son Chris Roberts are the third and fourth generation of the Roberts family to serve on the Days of ’76 Rodeo committee. Working the rodeo is like “our summer vacation,” Chris said. “The kids can’t wait for rodeo week.” Photo courtesy Days of ’76.

Deadwood, S.D. – Pat Roberts’ life has revolved around the Days of ’76 Rodeo.

In fact, he’s the third of four generations of Roberts who has been involved in the PRCA event, which takes place in Deadwood July 23-29.

The first time he attended the rodeo was at four days old, in 1955, and since then, he’s never missed a single performance of the rodeo. His son Chris hasn’t either.

It’s a tradition with the Roberts, a family affair, Chris said. He and his dad volunteer with other organizations, but the Days of ’76 is near and dear to their hearts. “The rodeo is one thing we’ve been involved with, I can say, for forever.”

Chris’ great-granddad, also named Pat, started the tradition of volunteering with the rodeo; Pat’s son Bub, continued it; Bub’s son Pat was the third generation, becoming a committee man in the 1970s, and now Pat and his wife Annie’s son Chris continues the tradition.

Pat remembers hearing stories of his granddad, who broke horses, mostly teams, for a living. When he would sell a team, the staunch old cowboy would tell the buyer that he’d come and get them during the Days of ’76, so they could be used to pull wagons in the parade. Pat remembers trailing sixty or seventy head of horses, some from the teams his granddad had broke and sold, from Whitewood to Deadwood for the rodeo parade each year.

The ranchers usually didn’t mind, Pat said. “They were proud to have them in the parade, and most of them would drive their team,” on the parade route.

As a kid, Pat was on horseback, helping run calves and steers out of the arena. He graduated to running a chalkboard: writing judges’ scores and flashing it up to the crow’s nest, before the days of electronic equipment.

When he dated his wife, Annie, one of the first outings they had was to a Little Britches Rodeo in Deadwood. She worked in the crow’s nest as a timer and with bookwork, as he volunteered in the arena. “She knew,” he said, of his love for rodeo and “The Days,” the nickname committee members have for the event.

They married in 1981, and had four kids: Chris, Mike, Scott and Abby.

All four kids helped with the rodeo, and Chris has continued as an adult.

Like his dad, Chris got his start as a kid.

“I was probably more in the way than helping,” he said. He helped untie calves during the tie-down roping and clear the arena of calves and steers.

He joined the committee in 2002 and served as chairman in 2012 and 2022.

“Being on the board as long as I have, I’ve served on all the sub-committees,” he said. “That’s one thing about our rodeo. It’s all hands on deck. It’s a very involved group of people.”

The board consists of 20 people, all volunteers, who produce the Days of ’76.

“It’s a great, great group of people,” Chris said. “You don’t find groups like this that work as hard as we do, for the same goal, and get along so well.”

Camaraderie among the committee members is good, he said. “We’re all good friends, and a lot of those friendships were made simply by being on the Days of ’76 committee. It’s a great group of people. I think the majority of us look forward to the meetings and getting together, and we have fun while we’re doing it.

“The camaraderie is hard to explain, but it’s there and it’s deep.”

Wives and kids have volunteered. Chris and his wife Abbie’s three kids volunteer, as has Abbie, and Pat’s wife Annie. “My wife has been supportive, as has Chris’s,” Pat said.

Pat remembers when his daughter Abby was planning wedding dates for herself and soon-to-be husband. He told her, “there are three dates in my life you can sure get married on, but I won’t be there,” and one of them was the Days of ’76. “She said, ‘you’re not serious,’ and my wife said, ‘absolutely.’ We don’t plan anything for the family over those days.”

The last full week of July, the Roberts family has plans.

“We know exactly what we’re doing, and where we’ll be,” Chris said. “No question on any of it.”

“It’s fun,” Pat said. “It just gets in your blood. I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I’m going to have to be pushing up daisies to miss it.”

This year’s Days of ’76 takes place July 23-29, Performances are July 26-29 at 7 pm nightly with a 1:30 pm matinee on July 29. Slack, the extra competition that doesn’t fit into the performances, runs July 23-27.

Tickets range in price from $11-$41 (plus fees) and can be purchased online at and at the gate. For more information, visit the website.

A free concert by the band Brule will kick of rodeo week on July 25 at 8 pm, at Outlaw Square.

In 2011, Days of ’76 was inducted into the PRCA’s Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

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