Summertime brings so many exciting events to Walworth County, and the upcoming Great Midwest Pro Rodeo is no exception! Coming to the Walworth County Fairgrounds next month, the rodeo is full of fun and excitement for the whole family. I had the pleasurable opportunity to speak with Lenora N., from the Big Hat Rodeo Co., about the event and what it holds in store for 2016. Read on to learn what’s returning, and what’s new this year.
WCVB: Please tell us a little about the Great Midwest Pro Rodeo that is coming to Elkhorn.
LN: Big Hat Rodeo Company has been a family owned and operated business for 96 years. There have been 6 generations of our family in the rodeo business and there are still three generations at the rodeos. We are vigilant in ensuring that our spectators, sponsors and contestants can enjoy our performances with their families. There is something for everyone and we pride ourselves on seeing multi-generational families come back…year after year.
Big Hat Rodeo Company is proud to bring great rodeo action and excitement to Elkhorn. The Great Midwest Pro Rodeo is a phenomenal event that incorporates all of the fun, energy and thrills and spills you’d expect from a great rodeo PLUS hilarious rodeo clowns, the daring Wild Together Trick Riders, kids games and so much more.
WCVB: Where will the rodeo be held, and on what dates?
LN: The Great Midwest Pro Rodeo will be Friday and Saturday, August 19th and 20th at the Walworth County Fairgrounds in Elkhorn. Two HUGE performances at 7PM daily.
WCVB: Has the Great Midwest Pro Rodeo been to Elkhorn in the past?
LN: This is the 12th year for the Great Midwest Pro Rodeo to visit Elkhorn and it’s bigger and better than ever!
WCVB: What kind of events can we expect this year at the rodeo?
LN: The pro rodeo events are Bareback Riding (the rodeo’s most physically demanding event), Steer Wrestling (rodeos fastest event), Team Roping (the rodeo’s two-contestant event), Saddle Bronc Riding (the rodeo’s classic event), Tie Down Roping (the rodeo’s precision event), Cowgirls Barrel Racing (the rodeo’s ladies only event) and Bull Riding (the rodeo’s most dangerous and most popular event).
WCVB: Is the rodeo kid-friendly? Are there activities for kids at the rodeo?
LN: We offer several activities aimed at our younger audience members. A boot scramble allows kids in the arena, tons of fun and keeps them safe as well.
WCVB: Please tell us about the “Cowboys & Clowns” program.
LN: Cowboys and Clowns is great for kids of all ages. It’s a meet and greet with the cowboys and clowns, autographs and photo ops as well as some fun rodeo games and best of all, a chute tour so everybody gets a chance to meet our livestock “stars of the show”, including the bucking horses and bulls. It’s educational, it’s fun and it’s free with your rodeo admission.
WCVB: The website states that the rodeo assists a great cause. Please tell us about the cause, and how the rodeo helps.
LN: The Great Midwest Pro Rodeo is held to benefit the Memorial Rodeo Scholarship Fund that was actually started as a memorial for our parents, Rudy & Gene Calzavara, who spent their entire lives in rodeo and supporting young people who loved rodeo. They were passionate about education and with the cost of college increasing each year it’s becoming a struggle for many families to send their kids to college, without taking on massive student loans. Thousands of kids each year attend college with the help of rodeo scholarships, like ours. Each year we choose the recipients, based on their being full time students with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA and they have to be involved in rodeo in some way. If they’re on a rodeo committee, volunteer, compete, are specialty acts or personnel, they qualify. The scholarships are $2500 each and are awarded at the end of July each summer at the Grayslake, IL rodeo in the county where we were raised. After our parents passing we thought it would make them proud to continue to do what came so naturally to them…help kids further their education while letting them grow and achieve their rodeo goals. 100% of funds raised go directly to the scholarships. NO ADMINISTRATION FEES! We have donation bins throughout the grounds and we also have a boot pass with volunteers literally “passing cowboy boots” for donations. Usually we have a couple of adult games where the monies raised also go to the Fund. The Scholarship Fund has become a huge priority for family and friends. Although the Great Midwest Pro Rodeo is our only official annual fundraiser, you can also make donations on our website and even when you’re purchasing advance tickets. Go to http://www.bighatrodeo.com, click on ABOUT and it will take you to the Scholarship page or when you’re on our Tickets page to purchase Great Midwest Pro Rodeo Tickets, there’s a spot for donations of any size.
WCVB: Are concessions available at the rodeo?
LN: There is an amazing array of great food and drink concessions available. Everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to delicious prime rib sandwiches, funnel cakes, popcorn and so much more. Concessions open at the same time the entrance gates do…5PM daily.
WCVB: Are there any new features at the rodeo for 2016:
LN: Great news: There’s several NEW things in 2016…First, if you love sensational country music you may already be fans of “Chasin’ Mason”. They will be performing after both performances and I’ve heard rumors they’ll do a song or two during the rodeo as well. There’s no extra charge for the extra fun…it’s included with your rodeo ticket. There’s a beer garden at both ends of the grandstand and for our younger guests, there’s some miniature ponies coming to visit. Kids can see and pet them and they make everybody smile. An all-new VIP pit pass ticket is available only online or at the advance ticket locations. It includes seating on the raised infield stage, a visit with our rodeo clowns and specialty acts & beverages as well as some snacks. Cost is $25 per person.
WCVB: You’ve organized many rodeos. What is your favorite part about the Walworth County Fairgrounds event?
LN: The Walworth County Fairgrounds is one of our all-time favorite venues for several reasons. First, it is impeccably cared for…always clean and neat and so easy to navigate. They have everything you’ll ever need for a successful, plenty of room with perfect locations for anything from parking, handicapped access, lighting, seating, concessions, restrooms, etc…and they have an amazing office and management team that works constantly to improve facilities, marketing and spectator conveniences.
WCVB: What kind of planning goes into a rodeo event like this?
LN: Rodeos are certainly a unique event with unique needs. Of course, marketing, growing a sponsorship program, lining up vendors, site needs, etc are all planned but attracting a great number of quality contestants, ensuring livestock comfort and safety, making sure personnel from the rodeo side as well as ticket sellers, parking people and for this rodeo they are all volunteers, which is simply amazing and so rewarding. We certainly could not stage The Great Midwest Pro Rodeo without the many volunteer hours that we are blessed with.
WCVB: How do the cowgirls and cowboys register for the competitive events? With only a few weeks to go before the event, is there still time to register?
LN: A huge percentage of our contestants are members of a major rodeo association and they all call into a central entry system to enter rodeos by phone and new in 2016, online entries are also accepted. Most of the events have already closed entries but there is also a possibility for some area member and non-member people to be able to compete. They would just need to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 815/648-1957 (office) or 815/823-3245 (cell). I’d be happy to answer questions.
WCVB: Will there be an online roster of competitors before the event?
LN: No, there isn’t a complete roster of contestants available online BUT at the rodeo our guests receive a complimentary score sheet that has a schedule of events as well as the contestant names, hometowns and a place to keep score as the rodeo proceeds. There are also logos from some of our sponsors, who make the rodeo possible. Simon’s Feed and Seed, The Walworth County Fair, WSLD, and Copies and Prints Plus have been sponsors since the first rodeo and they are fantastic to work with.
WCVB: How much are the tickets to see the rodeo, and where can they be purchased?
LN: Tickets are really family friendly. Tickets are available through online advance sales as well as at our convenient advance ticket locations. Purchasing tickets in advances save you up to $3 per ticket!
Kids 4-Under are FREE!
Kids 5-11 and Seniors 65+ are only $8 in advance/$10 at the gate
General Tickets (12 years and over) are $12 in advance/$15 at the gate
VIP PIT PASSES are available online and at advance ticket locations for ONLY $25 per person.
ADVANCE TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE NOW AT www.bighatrodeo.com, in Elkhorn at the Walworth Co Fairgrounds office, at Simon’s Feed & Seed, in Lake Geneva at Copies & Prints Plus, and in IL at Woodstock Farm & Lawn. ALL ADVANCE TICKET SALES (online and at retail locations) ENDS THURSDAY, August 18th at 3 pm.
WCVB: Can tickets be purchased at the gate, or can they only be purchased prior to the event?
LN: Tickets will be available at the gate both days, but if you don’t have your tickets ahead of time, come early to avoid long lines and enjoy some great food.
WCVB: Are there any other details that you’d like to share with our audience about the upcoming rodeo:
LN: The Great Midwest Pro Rodeo features the spectacular bucking stock of the Big Hat Rodeo Company and includes many award-winning animals. It’s 2 ½ hours of non-stop action and excitement, tons of laughter and our rodeo fans will be there at the end of the rodeo cheering on their favorite competitors. You can make it a great evening under the stars and enjoy the sounds of Chasin’ Mason. Grab your cowboy boots and hats and load up your family and friends and come to the Great Midwest Pro Rodeo for a fantastic rodeo experience…and benefit a wonderful cause all at the same time!