By Larry Stalcup Contributing Editor
Carla Purcella’s fiery attitude helps keep the Spicer Gripp Memorial a ropingfest that illustrates the unsurpassed spirit of her hometown of Hereford, Texas. She’s a key coordinator of the high-dollar roping that attracts the world’s best cowboys, while adding to a scholarship fund for ag students at West Texas A&M University.
She and her husband, World Champion Team Roper Steve Purcella, operate Purcella’s Western Allee Western Wear & Gifts in Hereford. The “Allee” title is named after their daughter, a senior at Hereford High.
Purcella grew up in Hereford, with a small stint in Iraan near Big Bend for couple of years. After returning to Hereford, her parents, Carl and Johnnie Alford, moved to a place that had an arena. They started holding ropings at the Circle A arena.
“I enjoyed being around horses and cattle, but leaned more toward basketball back then,” Purcella says. “However, I loved the roping atmosphere. We had our arena and traveled to help with events elsewhere.”
Following high school, she attended Texas Tech University, then entered radiology studies and became an x-ray technologist. She later helped in the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) and IT departments at a hospital. She was in the medical field 20 years. She and Steve bought the western store in 2008 and were immediately welcomed back to the community.
“The first Spicer Gripp Roping was in Amarillo,” Purcella says. “That was in 1994 and Spicer was there. I remember hearing that Spicer told the guys – ‘this is the proudest day of my life – don’t let this stop.’”
And it hasn’t. After the initial Amarillo event, Gripp ropings were held at Circle A until the new Spicer Gripp Arena was built. After Spicer passed away, support grew for the memorial roping. Steve and Carla joined the volunteer train during the early years and continue to take lead positions in event. “I’ve been more involved the past 10 years,” she says. “I help with obtaining sponsorships, coordinating the roping events and overseeing the sponsors reception.
“Hundreds of people make the event possible. Hereford and the Panhandle communities come out in full force. Many of our ropers got started when they were kids competing in the dummy roping. Some attended WT with help from the Spice Gripp foundation funding.”
As was seen in this year’s total roping payout of over $760,000, The Gripp is a leading event for PRCA and other ropers across the nation and world. “I’m honored to be involved,” Purcella says. “It’s something we’re all proud of.”