North Platte, Neb., woman volunteers with youth, wins Buffalo Bill Award |

North Platte, Neb., woman volunteers with youth, wins Buffalo Bill Award

Ruth Nicolaus
for the Buffalo Bill Rodeo
Tricia Schaffer, center, poses with the award she won at the 2018 Buffalo Bill Rodeo, as Trail Boss winner, alongside rodeo committee members Shelli Arensdorf, on the left, and Jack Morris on the right. Schaffer’s son Cole and husband Dewey stand next to Arensdorf and Morris.
Photo courtesy North Platte Telegraph.

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — High school rodeo in Nebraska is stronger because of Tricia Schaffer, and because of her efforts the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte awarded her last year with the 2018 Trail Boss Award.

The North Platte woman has spent more than two decades volunteering with high school rodeo at the state and national levels.

It started in 1991, when she and her husband Dewey’s oldest daughter, Emily, began competition in the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association. Schaffer began volunteering, and she hasn’t quit since.

Five years later, in 1996, she became a national director for the National High School Finals Rodeo Association, and is still in that role.

“Everybody needs to donate their time doing something.”

At the state level, Schaffer has helped grow the high school rodeo association’s annual scholarship auction and banquet. Because of the fundraising ability of the auction and banquet, each senior high school rodeo student gets a scholarship.

Since she’s been a national director for more than 20 years, she understands all that high school rodeo has to offer the youth, and she is able to share that info with the Nebraska high school kids. “There are a lot of opportunities out there, and if you’re not aware, your state misses out on those things.” Each state with participating high school rodeo athletes at nationals gets a minimum of three college scholarships, and Schaffer makes sure the Nebraska high school seniors apply for those scholarships. “There are states that have no one who applies,” she said, noting that it’s sometimes because new directors don’t realize the opportunities that are there.

At the national level, she is chair of the National High School Rodeo Queen contest, the world’s largest rodeo queen pageant, with more than 40 participants each year. When she first started as a national director, it was nearly impossible for a director to resign. “National directors stayed on forever,” she said. “They had to die, basically,” to get off the board,” she laughed. “I hope I don’t die, doing this job.”


The job requires a big time commitment. Schaffer is required to attend the National High School Finals Rodeo, a seven-day event, and is there several days early for her work with the queen contest. She also spends a week each winter at the mid-winter meetings. She’s been a stay-at-home mom, raising her and Dewey’s four children, which allowed her the time to serve.

Schaffer acknowledges that many people don’t have the time to volunteer anymore, and they serve for the four years their children are high school rodeo athletes. She would like to pass on the baton to someone else, but she’d also like to know that whoever replaces her is there for the long haul. “I want somebody to take it over who will stick with it, who will uphold the traditions for why the National High School Rodeo Association was formed, someone who will keep rodeo alive so families can experience it. I hear, from so many people, that their years in high school rodeo were the best of times and how much they will miss the time spent with their kids.”

Schaffer knows the good that high school rodeo does for kids. When her own four kids competed, they made friends across the state. When her kids played high school basketball, they had friends who were members of the other teams. “My kids would know the other kids on the opposing team, and the other kids would say, “how do you know these people?” Her kids still network with the friends they made while rodeoing. “You have this whole family of people all over the country,” that are friends.

Rodeo is also a good learning experience for kids. “It’s a good opportunity to teach your kids responsibility,” Schaffer said, “to take care of an animal, for meeting deadlines for entering rodeos, and for taking leadership roles as event directors.”

And rodeo kids are good kids. Schaffer recalls the comments made by the people at the venue for the National High School Finals Rodeo in Springfield, Ill. Nationals involves more than 1,700 high school kids, and it was the first time the rodeo had been held east of the Mississippi River. “The people at the fairgrounds couldn’t believe we didn’t have one fight and not one window got broken out. They were amazed that we had that many kids in one location and nothing happened.”

She also helps with the Miss Rodeo Nebraska Association, and, alongside Sheri Dodson of North Platte began the “Partner Up” rodeo, a rodeo for special needs youth. The Partner Up rodeo has grown to where ESU 16 supports it; last year, about 180 kids and 300 community volunteers helped with it.

She volunteers at Great Plains Hospital in North Platte, as well. “Everybody needs to donate their time doing something,” she said.

In 2013, the National High School Rodeo Association honored her with the “NHSRA Woman of the Year” award.

She and Dewey have six grandchildren.

The Buffalo Bill Rodeo takes place at the Wild West Rodeo Arena in North Platte June 12-15 with performances beginning at 8 p.m. each night.

Tickets for the rodeo can be purchased at the Nebraskaland Days office, online at, and at the gate. For more information, visit the website or call the office at (308) 532.7939. ❖

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