For small town Grover, PRCA Rodeo brings tradition, community spirit
The town of Grover is far from a big city.
But Grover does bring something big every Father’s Day: a PRCA rodeo. Not only that, but 2016 is the 93rd edition of the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo.
The first rodeo put on in Grover was in 1921 and Earl Anderson took over the rodeo in 1929. Back then there was no arena and the rodeo was held under the town’s water tower.
The PRCA still lists the address for the rodeo as “just south of the water tower.” When Earl Anderson passed away, the Grover rodeo became the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo.
It’s not an easy job to host a rodeo, but the town had put one together for 93 years. The Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo is organized by the Grover Community Club, and the tradition is considered the “Best little rodeo in the West.”
Jeff Wahlert is the President of the Community Club and also the chute boss.
“I take complaints and try to settle fires.” Wahlert said.
But that’s an oversimplification of the job he’s done for the rodeo. But he’s been involved for 25 years.
“I’ve been around this rodeo my whole life,” he said. “Before I lived here permanently I was here or six or seven years before that and worked for Dave Bashor. So I was always involved with the Grover rodeo. Before I came to this country I was riding bulls and entering here at Grover. The first year that I entered here was 1977.”
Wahlert decided to make the small town home, but he said there is one main reason he decided to stay.
“Tradition mostly, because it’s such a long-standing rodeo and there is a lot of history here starting with Earl Anderson, and going down through his kids and grandkids, through the generations keeping it going.
“We’ve got good community support. We have all the ranchers and their kids keeping it going. If it wasn’t for the community and volunteer support, we couldn’t do it. Everybody knows about how the tradition goes and wants to keep it going, so they just keep working hard at making the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo the best it can be every year.”
Matt Carroll has been a pickup man at the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo for 10 years and he carries the American flag at the beginning of every rodeo. In Carroll’s 10 years, he’s become part of something bigger in the community tradition.
“It’s a tradition more than anything,” he said. “Their dads did it. My dad rode horses here and roped calves here before I was born. Some of these kids look forward to having that Grover rodeo buckle on their belt. That’s just something they strive for and go for that part of it. That’s how I grew up anyway. That’s just how it was – you went to the Grover rodeo. Just about everybody did.”
Shane Burris has been the voice of the Grover rodeo for 14 years.
“At first it was just a job opportunity,” Burris said. “Grover was the first PRCA rodeo committee that hired me to be their announcer. I was grateful at the time when they gave me the job my rookie year. Since then we have developed a friendship. It’s a family oriented rodeo and I just kind of fell in love with the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo and for everything that it stands for.”
If anything shows the community spirit that keeps the Grover rodeo going, it is embodied by Colt Bruegman, who, was asked by Wahlert to fill an empty slot as a bullfighter. Colt quickly agreed to step into the arena, after almost 20 years away from the arena.
“I’ve got eight bulls to get by today and I think I can do that,” he said. “Fortunately, if I embarrass myself real bad today, I don’t have to come back tomorrow.
“I’ve been coming to Grover since I was 18. I won the bronc riding here in 2001. I entered bronc riding for about 12 years. I worked for Dave and Beth Bashor for about 12 years, so this is kind of a hometown rodeo for me and I really enjoy it. I’m almost 50 now and I retired from bronc riding in 2001. I trip steers now and I go to enough rodeos to qualify for Cheyenne and Pendleton.” said Bruegman.
Those who lived in Grover or have competed in the rodeo give a lot to insure that the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo continues. The tradition of the Earl Anderson Memorial Rodeo will continue because there are plenty of eager youngsters who say, “I’ve been coming here with my dad for my whole life”, that are ready to follow in their footsteps. ❖