By Larry Stalcup Contributing Editor
Sooner Cattle Co. of Pawhuska, Okla., took home world champion honors after competing against 24 other teams at the 28th Annual Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA) World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo. The Nov. 9-12 event once again packed the Amarillo Civic Center. It thrilled rodeo fans with a hankering to experience “real deal” competition among cowboys from working ranches in seven states.
Randy Whipple, WRCA treasurer and long-time association spokesman, said the world championship was able to expand to 25 teams due to a greater interest in sanctioned ranch rodeos.
“We usually have 19 or 20 ranches competing, but reached 25 this year,” says Whipple, who was among a group that helped get the WRCA started in the late 1990s. “We want to expand into other cowboy cultures, like the ‘flat-hat’ areas farther north and west.”
Whipple says the pre-rodeo Calcutta raised nearly $140,000, with proceeds going to the WRCA Foundation. The foundation provides financial assistance to working ranch cowboys and their family members. Assistance is made if accidents, other health issues or ranch disasters injure cowboys. It’s motto is: “A Hand Up, Not A Hand Out” and has helped many ranch hands get through tough times.
WRCA’s only wrinkle is not being able to sell more World Championship Rodeo tickets. It’s not due to the lack of popularity; it’s the lack of seating space at the Amarillo Civic Center.
“We don’t want to move. The [WRCA] Board loves it here,” Whipple says. “We’ll be here in 2024 but don’t know after that. We have offers [to move the event] from all over the country.”
Those offers have come from Fort Worth and other cities boasting newer arenas with more seating capacity and structures that can handle large rodeos, major concerts or other events.
“It’s a great home. It’s mighty tight, but it’s a great home,” Whipple says. “Amarillo needs a larger civic center coliseum. We want to stay here.”
The 28-year relationship between WRCA and Amarillo has been a good one. Hopefully, it’s one that will continue in the historic cow town.