Amarillo Globe News: WRCA championship rodeo to return to Amarillo

Josh Ownbey, left, and his teammate Hegan Lamb compete in the stray gathering competition during the first night of the 16th annual Working Ranch Cowboys Association’s Championship Rodeo, Thursday, November 10, 2011 at the Amarillo Civic Center’s Cal Farley Coliseum.

By Chip Chandler, Amarillo Globe News

For cowboy Dane Driver, the World Championship Ranch Rodeo is “as tough as there is.” And he can’t wait to get back in the saddle when the Working Ranch Cowboys Association’s 18th annual championship returns to Amarillo for performances beginning Nov. 7.

Driver, team captain for Driver Land & Cattle of Garden City, is a fifth-generation rodeo cowboy and seventh-generation rancher whose company is making its second appearance in the rodeo. “It’s a tough rodeo, as tough as there is, but we know what to expect,” Driver said.

To him, what sets the WRCA apart is its focus on the heritage of ranching and the way those skills are brought to the modern day.“Not only are you able to come see the heritage in action, but it’s still fast-paced, still as exciting today as it was 120 years ago,” Driver said. “It’s showcasing a true heritage sport in a manner that puts you on the edge of your seat. “Look at the ticket sales and you can tell a lot of people agree with me,” he said. “It sells out so quickly.”

Indeed, it has: Both the Nov. 8 and 9 performances are sold out. Tickets remain for the Nov. 7 kickoff performance and the Nov. 10 final performance. All performances will be held in the Amarillo Civic Center Cal Farley Coliseum, 401 S. Buchanan St., and the Civic Center also will house a trade show, an expo, horse shows, youth competitions, Pokey’s Junior Ranch Rodeo and more.

Cowboys from the Arndt Ranch and Bailey Ranch compete in the wild cow milking competition at the 2012 Working Ranch Cowboys Association’s World Championship Ranch Rodeo. This year’s rodeo begins Thursday.

Nathan Wells of KW Cattle & Diamond E Ranch in Kansas said his team’s favorite part of the competition is the one most loosely associated with ranching history: the wild cow milking. “We’ve enjoyed the challenge … and I guess that’s something everybody on the team can take part in,” Wells said. “It’s probably not something I could take my wife to do, but it’s something for everybody on the team.

“It definitely spices (the competition) up, and it’s something that the crowd always seems to enjoy,” Wells said. As fun as the cowboys find the contests, those interviewed all said they’re coming to Amarillo to win the title. “Anytime we go anywhere, we don’t go just to play, we go to win,” said Kris Wilson of the Bell Ranch in New Mexico.

“I’m extremely competitive,” Driver echoed. “I enjoy the competition. I definitely don’t believe in second place.” For Wilson, though, it’s not just about the competition. “The WRCA as a whole does an incredible job taking care of ranch families through its foundation,” Wilson said.

“That’s the underlying goal of the whole association, to take care of ranch families in need, so I think, in turn, the ranch families support WRCA because they know the value of it.” And Driver said he’s happy to see how much Amarillo supports the competition, too.

“When we drive across the city limits and come into town, we truly feel like welcomed guests,” Driver said. “I’m Texas proud, and I love to see the looks on people’s faces when they come from Florida or Montana.”