Whitman, Neb., man honored at 2015 Buffalo Bill Rodeo for volunteer work | TheFencePost.com

Whitman, Neb., man honored at 2015 Buffalo Bill Rodeo for volunteer work

Ruth Nicolaus

2015 Trail Boss Award winner Larry Piester talks to the crowd after receiving his award during Saturday's performance of the Nebraskaland Days Buffalo Bill Rodeo. Piester's wife Jean stands next to him.

Look around the Wild West Arena in North Platte and chances are, you'll see something that has been built by Larry Piester.

The Whitman, Neb., man was the recipient of the 2015 Trail Boss Award, given to a volunteer with the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte who exemplifies volunteerism, going above and beyond the call of duty to support the rodeo.

Piester and his wife Jean moved to North Platte in 1972, and he began his business, Piester Construction. Soon he was volunteering his time and talents, building stages, easels and other items for various NebraskalandDays events. In 1984, he was asked to be on the NebraskalandDays board, where he served for six years, and then from 1990 through 2005, he served on the Buffalo Bill Rodeo board.

Piester helped build or remodel a variety of structures on the grounds: the dance pavilion, the crow's nest, the chutes, the Jaycee's beer stand and the rodeo office.

“When you live in a community and you take out of that community, you put back into the community. It’s not a one way street.”

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As a NebraskalandDays director, one of his duties was to help coordinate the big entertainment shows. He set stages and, years ago, took the bales that had been mowed and baled from the field around the arena, set them in the arena on planks to be used for seating.

Piester loved meeting some of the celebrities, including The Monkeys and country music stars like Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, Randy Travis and Lee Greenwood.

The biggest celebrity he met while volunteering for NebraskalandDays, however, was not an entertainer. It was President Reagan, when he visited North Platte in August 1987 and again in 1990. When he came in 1987, Piester was in charge of the arena and worked with the Secret Service. Because President Reagan had just had surgery on his nose, the roof of the crow's nest had to be extended to provide more shade so his nose wasn't in the sun.

"It was quite an experience," Piester said.

He had no idea it was coming when he was given the Trail Boss Award at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo last year. His daughters, Mitzi and Jodi, knew it, and got the entire family together in North Platte under the pretense of celebrating a birthday and going to the rodeo for old time's sake.

"It was a surprise," Piester said. "Even my wife didn't know it."

Volunteering for your community is something that is no big surprise to Larry and Jean.

"It's just something you do, and you don't give it a second thought. When you live in a community and you take out of that community, you put back into the community. It's not a one way street," he said. "We had a lot of fun, and we enjoyed it. We were tickled to have the experience."

Piester retired from the construction industry five years ago and now lives thirty miles north of Whitman, on the ranch where his grandparents homesteaded in 1907. He and Jean get back to the Buffalo Bill Rodeo occasionally. ❖

More info

This year’s Trail Boss Award will be given out during the June 18 performance of the Buffalo Bill Rodeo. This year’s rodeo is June 15-18. Tickets range in price from $7 to $20 and can be purchased online at NebraskalandDays.com, at the NebraskalandDays office at 2801 Charlie Evans Drive in North Platte (at the Wild West Arena), and at the gate. For more information, visit the website or call (308) 532-7939.