Wrangler and 2014 Top Hand Jerod Lichtenberg started volunteering so he could drive a tractor
About the wranglers
For more information about Wranglers Inc., a support group for the Greeley Stampede, go to http://www.greeleystampede.org/p/about-us/wranglers.
This is his 19th year volunteering as a wrangler, and although he hasn’t driven a tractor for the demolition derby yet, his fellow wranglers will recognized him with the Top Hand Award for 2014 at the rodeo last week.
Lichtenberg earned the prestigious title working at the Stampede’s rodeo, and yes, he does get to drive a tractor there, he said with a smile.
The honor of Top Hand means Lichtenberg’s service as a wrangler caused him to stand out for his dedication and tendency to go above and beyond the responsibilities of a wrangler. That’s not an easy task; more than 300 people volunteer as wranglers, said Kent Hoffman, a fellow wrangler and previous Top Hand.
Each year a wrangler from each area of work gets nominated as a wrangler of the year, then in September the membership votes to select the top four. From there, a panel of the past five years’ Top Hands select the next Top Hand, wranglers President Ruth Walter said.
Wranglers volunteer their time, not just during the Stampede, but all year to help out with events, meetings and other tasks. During the Stampede itself, wranglers often show up before the sun rises and don’t head home until long after it sets.
Lichtenberg said he usually gets to Island Grove Regional Park about 5 a.m. to help prepare the rodeo arena. Throughout the day, he does whatever the situation requires to get the arena ready for the day’s events.
Sometimes a day of setting up, tearing down and more keeps him at work until after 1 a.m.
“It’s tough,” he said. ”And fun, and exciting.”
When Lichtenberg’s not volunteering as a wrangler, the Eaton resident works as an electrician with B&M Electric. Even on Stampede days, he endeavors to get some of his paying work done. On days with late rodeo events, for example, he’ll get some work done in the early morning before heading to the Stampede to work through the rest of the day and night, he said.
He likes the people he volunteers with, comparing them to one big family. However, in Lichtenberg’s case, he actually has family there. His wife, Nichole, is in her fifth year as a wrangler and serves as the current wrangler vice president. Both his kids volunteer as wranglers, as well. His daughter, Tia, 19, is in her second year as a wrangler and his son, Aaron, 17, is finishing up his second year as a wrangler in training. Even his mother-in-law is in her second year as a wrangler, he said.
Lichtenberg didn’t have to work hard to convince them to join the ranks of the wranglers.
His family saw how much fun he has volunteering and decided to do so as well, he said.
Long hours and no pay might dissuade some, but Lichtenberg keeps volunteering each year. Seeing expressions of joy and happiness on the faces of fans and spectators at each event makes the job worth it, he said.
He perched on the arena fence, peering out from the shade of his hat and watching the PRCA Rodeo Timed Slack on the morning of June 26.
“It’s a break from the everyday norm,” he said with a smile. ❖
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