Longtime rodeo volunteer gives freely of his time, resources
Hastings, NEB. — Darrel Stromer would rather be behind the scenes than in front of the camera, and his volunteer years, hard work, vision and generosity has helped make three events at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Hastings, Neb., a success.
At the age of 88 years young, the Juniata, Neb., man is a long-time volunteer and board member with the Adams County Ag Society, helping with the pro rodeo, the state high school finals rodeo, and the Adams County Fair.
He was one of a handful of men who resurrected the Oregon Trail Rodeo, a professional rodeo, in Hastings in 1992. It was, in part, due to the popular belief that Hastings had no events for people to enjoy.
“All (the fair board) ever heard was ‘there’s nothing to do in Hastings,’ so we got our heads together and decided we’d have a rodeo on Labor Day weekend,” he said.
Thus, the Oregon Trail Rodeo was born (since then, it has moved to the weekend two weeks prior to Labor Day, this year Aug. 19-21).
Actually, Stromer had his start at the Adams County Fair as a teenager.
An escapade with an escaped heifer stands out in his memory.
He was showing 4-H dairy cattle at the fair when it was held where the Hastings High School campus is now.
“My Holstein got loose from me and started running,” he said. “I could have got it, but here come the police with their sirens on, and my Holstein went through the whole carnival before we got her caught.”
When the fairgrounds moved from the high school to its present location on the south side of town, Stromer helped build the race track and the arena, using equipment from his excavating business.
He’s volunteered his time, resources and money in countless ways, said Sandy Himmelberg, who was manager of the fairgrounds from 1995-2015.
“Whatever came up, he was always there,” she said, “giving of his time, his employees’ time, his equipment, his resources, whatever it may be, to make every event, and the fairgrounds in general, the best place it could be.”
Himmelberg recalls the long hours he put in. During the fair and rodeos, Stromer would often arrive at 6 a.m. and stay till the event was over, midnight or later, “and be back the next day,” she said.
Himmelberg remembered fairs when the parking lots would be muddy due to rain. Stromer would bring in his equipment and employees, and work the parking lot “till you could drive on it and not get stuck,” she said, “and he never charged the fairgrounds a dime.”
He is visionary as well, seeing what might be needed in the future. In 2012, he thought a foundation would be helpful to the Ag Society, so he worked on getting the legalities set up. The foundation, through donations, has provided scholarships annually to students, and Stromer is president of it.
Himmelberg recalls another example of his generosity. The fairgrounds parking lot is large, and it can be a long walk from the north end to the events. Stromer saw a 10-person tram that would work to transport people from their cars to the buildings, so he purchased it with his own money and donated it to the fairgrounds. “That’s the way he is,” she said. “If something would help out the event or the fairgrounds, he would do it.”
A farmer in addition to his excavating business, he married his wife Marilyn in 1954; this year, they celebrated 68 years of marriage.
He, along with other board members, was instrumental in getting the state high school finals rodeo to Hastings in 2003. “I could see it would do more for our community,” he said, “because the people come and stay three or four days and spend money.”
He’s not only volunteered his time, but he’s been a sponsor of all three events. “I spend a lot of money there,” he joked.
In 2000, he won the nationwide John Justin Committeeman of the Year, an award given to one volunteer among the 600 pro rodeos across the nation. He also volunteers with his church, Juniata baseball teams, and was chief of the Juniata Volunteer Fire Department.
He and Marilyn have four daughters: Cindy Timperley, Lori Tolley, Kristy Tong and Jackie Queen; 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Even into his eighth decade, Stromer still is up at 5 a.m. and out of the house by 6 a.m. He’s retired from farming, but he hasn’t retired from volunteering.
He’s still making sure things are done for the benefit of the fans and the fairgrounds.
“He always wants to make sure everything is the best we could possibly make it,” Himmelberg said. “That’s just him. He’s that way.”
“He’s one of a kind.”
The Oregon Trail Rodeo will take place Aug. 19-21, with performances at 7 p.m. on August 19-20 and 6 p.m. on Aug. 21.
Rodeo tickets range in price from $10-$20. They will be available online at http://www.Adams CountyFairgrounds.com, at the fair office (947 S. Baltimore, Hastings, Neb.) and at the gate.
For more information, visit the website at https://www.loc8nearme.com/nebraska/hastings/adams-county-fairgrounds/6753222/ or call the Adams County Fairgrounds office at (402) 462-3247.
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