About a thousand people headed out on Monday to the small community of Hayden for its annual Labor Day Rodeo.
Hayden is in Union County. “It’s really out in the middle of nowhere,” said rancher Ralph Stevenson, a nephew of the rodeo’s founder, the late Hane Stevenson.
“It’s northwest of Amistad, halfway between Nara Visa and Clayton, six miles off of Highway 402,” Stevenson said.
The rodeo’s been an annual event since 1946 or 1947 that attracts, at least, several hundred people. “We really don’t keep a count,” Stevenson said.
But, it’s the 62nd annual rodeo, “if you count the little celebration when it first started,” Stevenson said.
“This year was one of our biggest,” said rancher Roy Perschbacher who helps out each year with the event. “We haven’t had this many in a while. We fed 445 people at the BBQ,” Perschbacher said.
“But there were more people than that because not all of them ate,” Stevenson said.
So, a lot of people come and go?
“No. They stay the whole day, because there’s no place for them to go,” said Stevenson laughing.
Stevenson estimated there were an additional 500 which surpassed last year’s attendance by about 250.
There are a lot of folks who come and help, including Will Cantrell of Tucumcari, who is originally from Clayton, Stevenson said.
Stevenson, 52, and Perschbacher, 53, are the oldest ones. Both of our dads were in it, and we can remember how it was 40 years ago,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson’s great-uncle Hane Stevenson designated about five acres for the rodeo and then organized the Hayden Cowboy Club, whose membership eventually built the arena and the stands. The club is now under the stewardship of Ralph Stevenson and its members.
“It’s held on Labor Day, Monday, because Hane Stevenson believed you should go to church on Sunday,” Perschbacher said.
The rodeo, at times, has an international flavor, Stevenson said.
“We’ve had people from Venezuela and from South Africa. And a Japanese film crew came down from Clayton when they were there,” Stevenson said.
There’s no bright lights or the glitz and glam that mark marquee rodeos shown on TV.
“We’re not here to make money, just to keep the tradition. We put everything back into the rodeo,” Stevenson said. “We charge $5 at the gate, and it’s still $5 for the BBQ.”
Kelsy Garrison of Channing, Texas, for calf roping;
Haley Garrsion, also of Channing for barrel racing;
Jordan Ward of Clayton for ribbon roping,
Joe Jannas Van Urren of Rosebud for chute dogging;
Chad Marin of Tucumcari for bull riding
Clayton Ward and Clint Fraenz for team roping;
and Tyler Rice of Elida for bronc riding.