The changes happening with the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo will be virtually unapparent to the naked eye, but they’re big nonetheless.
After decades of Harry Vold Rodeo producing the annual event, the volunteer committee that organizes Roundup Rodeo will lean on Frontier Rodeo, which has been named the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Stock Contractor of the Year each of the past four seasons.
"Kirsten Vold actually came to us last year about making the change," said R.C. Trotter, president of the Roundup committee. "We’ve had Frontier here as a subcontractor for a number of years, so I think the changeover will be flawless.
"We’re excited to be working with Heath this year."
He’s talking about Heath Stewart, the rodeo manager who operates the outfit for owner Jerry Nelson, of Winnie, Texas. Stewart runs the firm out of the Freedom, Okla.-based ranch, a two-hour drive southeast of Dodge City.
He has plenty of firepower when it comes to producing Roundup rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 31 through Sunday, Aug. 5, at Roundup Arena.
Over eight years, Frontier animals have been named Horses of the Year: Medicine Woman won Saddle Bronc of the Year four times (2011, ’14-’16), Maple Leaf with the same title in 2013 and Full Baggage was Bareback Horse of the Year in 2011 and '13.
Frontier has had dozens of animals selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo over the years.
Medicine Woman also was the Saddle Bronc of the NFR in 2010, while Full Baggage won the same in bareback riding in 2010, ’12 and ’15. Another top bronc, Delta Ship, was Bareback Horse of the NFR in 2009 and ’11.
Those are just the cream of the crop for a deep herd of bucking animals that reside on the northwestern Oklahoma ranch. Last August, bareback rider Seth Hardwick, of Ranchester, Wyo., won the Roundup title after posting a 90-point ride in the championship round on Frontier’s Gunfire.
"It was awesome," Hardwick said. "All my friends have been on that horse, and everyone’s been a pile of points on him. I was pretty excited to have him, especially in the short round.
"Dodge City is a great rodeo, and we come here every year. It’s always tough to win at this rodeo, because there are a lot of good guys and a lot of good horses in the short round."
That will still be the case at Roundup. Frontier Rodeo is also a two-time winner of the Remuda Award, given to the stock contractor that has the best, most consistent pen of horses.
"We want everybody that’s entered to have a chance to win a check," Stewart said. "That’s hard to do, but that’s always our goal."