Hastings woman loves the western lifestyle, volunteers at rodeos | TheFencePost.com

Hastings woman loves the western lifestyle, volunteers at rodeos

Ruth Nicolaus

She never had the chance to live the rodeo or western lifestyle.

But now she's living it through her volunteerism.

Grace Woodward was born in Geneva, Neb., and when she was six years old, her dad passed away.

She and her mom and brother and sister moved to Hastings, where Grace was part of the Rural Ranchers 4-H club. She showed sheep, goats, poultry, horses and rabbits, and wanted a horse, but the opportunity wasn't there.

When she was eleven years old, her 4-H leader, Dave Berens, saw that she loved the western life: cattle, horses, agriculture and rodeo. So he asked if she'd be willing to hand out programs at the pro rodeo.

Grace jumped at the chance.

Recommended Stories For You

And ever since then, she's been volunteering with the Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo, then the pro rodeo that is held in Hastings, and now the college rodeo.

It's her tie to the western way of life. She has two horses now, but never got the chance to compete in youth rodeo. The family didn't have a truck or trailer to haul a horse, and there was no extra money for horse feed or rodeo entry fees.

Woodward, who graduated from Hastings High School in 2006, has helped with a variety of rodeo duties. She's helped with the stripping chute –the alleyway where the bucking horses and bulls pass through to get the riggins', bronc saddles or bull ropes taken off. She helps put out panels for livestock pens when they arrive in town. She helps hang banners or run errands, and even feed and water livestock. Wherever there's a job to do, Grace is ready to do it. "She's not afraid of getting dirty," said fellow volunteer Judy Mignery.

Woodward loves the kids and with volunteering at the high school, college and pro rodeos, she gets to watch them as they progress through school, college, and to the pros.

"She truly has a big heart for the high school rodeo kids," Mignery said. "When she is done in the arena, you can probably find her helping serve food to the contestants. She lends a hand everywhere."

Woodward, who is 28, has been volunteering for the past 17 years.

"It was unusual for someone as young as she was when she started," Mignery said, "to stick it out as long as she has." Her dedication shows. She often clocks in at her job at Thermo-King at 6:30 a.m., then checks out at three pm and heads to the rodeo grounds, where, on the nights of the performances, she might be there till ten p.m. or later.

But she loves it. She gets her rodeo "fix" through volunteering. "I enjoy watching the participants. It's really something that I wanted to do. I wasn't able to compete, but this is a way to be involved." ❖

To attend

The annual Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo at the Adams County Fairgrounds is June 16-18. Rodeo performances are at 10 am and 6 pm on June 16-17 with the finals round on June 18 at 1 pm. The top four winners in each event qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo, which will be held July 17-23, 2016 in Gillette, Wyo. For more information, visit AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com or hsrodeo-nebraska.com, or call 402.462.3247.

Go back to article