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Buffalo Bill Rodeo arena gets a face-lift from longtime volunteers

By Ruth Nicolaus, for the Buffalo Bill Rodeo

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — The Wild West Arena in North Platte is about to get a bit of a “makeup” touch-up.

The paintings of the words “Buffalo Bill Rodeo” and the picture of Buffalo Bill, painted on the west side of the arena, on the blocks below the grandstands, are getting touched up.

Sharon Negley, her daughter-in-law Tiffany Negley, and fellow volunteer Muffy Morris, are painting it to keep it fresh and clean.



It’s a job Sharon Negley started in 1988, when she and her husband, Bill, who passed last October, owned a sign shop in North Platte. At the time, many signs, including billboards, were painted by hand with Negley hand lettering them. The couple’s business became instrumental in the NebraskalandDays (NLD) celebration, working with them to install rodeo arena signs and banners and digital signs.

Negley and her crew head out to the rodeo arena about every other year, or more, if needed, to repair and repaint the face and the wording. Weather and precipitation take their toll on the painting. There might be places that chip or fade, or livestock kicks up rocks or dirt on it. The blocks freeze and thaw in the winter, which also causes wear and tear. “It’s an ongoing fight against the weather,” Negley said.



She uses four colors: white on the background, red for the lettering, and black and chrome yellow for shadowing the letters. Buffalo Bill’s face is black and white with a red outline. The paint is a special sign painter’s paint, with heavy pigment, specially made for painting murals and letters.

Painting on the cement blocks isn’t like painting on a canvas, Negley said. The blocks are uneven, there are joints to paint over, and angle iron that sticks out. “It’s a little bit of a challenge to paint on,” she said. “But it’s fun.”

ORIGINAL WORK

The original artwork and painting was done by Chris Christiansen, who owned the Ace Neon sign shop in North Platte from 1947 to 1996. He had used a Barnum and Bailey-style font, which Negley and her husband changed to a Western-style font when they began painting.

The painting is only one of many volunteer tasks Negley has done for NLD and the Buffalo Bill Rodeo. Her husband was on the board of directors for six years, serving as arena manager during that time. “He took care of that arena, let me tell you,” she said. “He was always there, grooming it, making sure everything was just right.” Sharon served on the Miss Rodeo Nebraska committee for years, and the couple was part of the Cody Cavalry, retired board members, who serve in hospitality for the NLD concerts and Buffalo Bill Rodeo each year.

Sharon, and Bill, when he was alive, “had a big heart for NLD,” she said. “We were always interested in things that were uplifting for the community. We felt that NLD was a good family-oriented activity for the community and everyone around. We saw that rodeo brought people together and provided a sport that kids as well as adults can compete in.”

The painting she does, as well as everything else she and Bill have done, are a “labor of love,” she said.

“You have people who have a heart for NLD, and we’re there. I’ll probably be there till God calls me home. Just like my husband, that was his heart. He loved it.”

This year’s Buffalo Bill Rodeo will be held June 15-18 at the Wild West Arena in North Platte, Neb. Performances begin at 8 p.m. nightly. Tickets are on sale at NebraskalandDays.com and range in price from $10-$23.

For more information, visit the website or call the office at (308) 532-7939.

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