Couple wins committee member, volunteer of the year for Hastings pro rodeo
A husband/wife team has been honored for their volunteer time and work with the Oregon Trail Rodeo in Hastings, Neb.
Justin and Danielle Wahl, Juniata, Neb., won the Committee Man of the Year Award and the Volunteer of the Year Award, respectively, for their help with the pro rodeo, which is held annually in mid-August. They also volunteer with the Adams County Fairfest.
Justin has been a member of the Adams Co. Ag Society since 2012. Producing a rodeo was new to him. “I didn’t have a clue what it took to put on the rodeo,” he said. “I sat back, volunteered where I was needed, and it took off from there.”
He helps with technology and with the facility, but his biggest job is making sure the arena ground is safe for cowboys and cowgirls and their equine partners. He preps the ground weeks in advance, putting water on if it’s dry and monitoring the weather, to pack the ground in case it would rain. His goal is that no barrel racer’s horse slips. “I don’t want anyone to fall because of the ground conditions,” he said. “You’re always worried till the last barrel racer runs. When the athletes and livestock have competed safely, then I can actually sleep after the rodeo is over.”
Danielle has been a volunteer with the Oregon Trail Rodeo and the Adams County Fairfest since her husband was elected to the Ag Society. “That just came with it,” she laughed.
At first, she helped him with little things at the fairgrounds. Then her role grew, as she spent more and more time there during rodeo week and fair week. Just this past year, she and their daughters picked trash out of the arena dirt, after the fair, so that it would be suitable for rodeo competition.
She’s helped put up banners, sell and scan tickets, and during the fair, transports band members wherever they need to go around town.
The whole family helps now. Justin and Danielle have three daughters, ages 11 and twins, age 8.
“Pretty much my whole family started to help,” Justin said. When he leaves to go to the fairgrounds, the girls clamor, “I’m going too, Dad, I’m going too, Dad.” His parents also help. “Dad loves it,” Justin said. “I’ll tell him, sleep in, but he’s out there, at 7 a.m., fired up and ready to go. He loves to help out with both the fair and the rodeo.”
And like any volunteer, the Wahls are happy to help. “I know how much work it takes to put on these events,” Danielle said. “I’m happy to jump in, wherever I can, anything I can do to take something off someone’s plate, to make someone’s life easier.”
The couple, who lives in Juniata, takes vacation time to be at the rodeo and brings a camper out, so they can stay overnight. Justin’s duties often begin by 7 or 8 a.m., and he’s usually not done till the last person leaves, after the rodeo, or, during fair time, after concerts.
The couple loves helping.
“We love giving back,” Justin said. “That’s the biggest thing, and our girls are learning from that, too. When it comes to the fairgrounds, we’ll be working. It’s fun, too, but we’ll be working.”
“We don’t do it for the recognition,” Danielle said. “We do it because we love rodeo and we enjoy volunteering. We do it to show our girls important lessons in life, like working hard and service to and for others.”
This year’s Oregon Trail Rodeo is Aug. 18-20 at the fairgrounds in Hastings. This year’s Adams County Fair is July 19-23. More information on both events can be found at AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com.