LAWTON – The colorful, energetic environment at LO Ranch arena Saturday night resembled a county fair or a high-stakes football game that grabs the attention of an entire community.
Actually, it was the 84th running of the Lawton Rangers Rodeo that drew young and old to one of the largest sporting events in southwest Oklahoma that oozes pride, patriotism and faith. The event is part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Naturally, cowboy hats and boots were a mainstay for almost everyone, American flags surrounded the arena and numerous concession stands fulfilled the food and drink needs of all the rodeo patrons. It was a conservative group that still removes hats for the opening part of the rodeo.
“We’re a different crowd of people. We still sing the national anthem and say a prayer,” said longtime rodeo fan Katie Beutler, whose family was the livestock contractor for the four-day event. “This western-style crowd has values that emphasize being nice and polite. Coming to a rodeo is just fun. It’s so energetic.”
Elgin resident Jean Ann Dobson, 34, has been coming to the rodeo her entire life and she doesn’t plan on missing one.
“It’s just good people and it’s a social event. I can’t come in here and take five steps without running people I know,” she said. “It’s fun and these guys (cowboys) are tough. I think the fans are like-minded people. You don’t find at every sport event where people place their hand over their heart. Rodeo people know what it takes to work and take care of business every day.”
Meanwhile, James Barber has continued a tradition that started when his father brought him to the rodeo. On Saturday, Barber was with his young son.
“It’s just a neat event to be a part of,” he said. “There’s a big mutual respect between people who come to participate that you don’t get at other sporting events. There’s a bunch of good people.”
Rancher Mike Hannabass, of Indiahoma, attends several rodeos a year because of the western heritage involved in his upbringing.
“I was raised as a cowboy,” he said, noting that roping and bronc riding are his favorite events. “I see a lot of people I know. It’s my sport of choice and I follow it pretty close.”