Organization made up of small-town events like Gunnison’s

PRCA Commissioner Karl
Stressman visited Cattlemen’s Days last week. He’s seen here at
the Tough Enough To Wear Pink Songwriter Concert and Auction last Tuesday. Photo by Chris Rourke.

The man who holds the reins of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) traveled to Gunnison for Cattlemen’s Days last week to participate in fundraising, roping and the great sport of rodeo.

PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman has been at the helm of the organization for nine years. Stressman is credited with the accelerated growth of the sport. For example, he helped the organization sign a record $175 million contract which keeps the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for seven more years. He also assisted in signing a television broadcast agreement with CBS Sports Network through 2019.

Stressman’s efforts have ensured 90 percent of all income generated benefits members and membership services. The Times caught up with Stressman — who hails from Colorado Springs — at Thursday night’s rodeo. Following are excerpts from the interview.

Why are you here?

The Tough Enough to Wear Pink initiative is the one that got us interested. Mike Dawson is a good friend of mine — we’ve roped together before. He comes to my roping in August at the Hall of Fame. So it’s also in reciprocation of trying to come back and be here in Gunnison. But they’ve done so much with Tough Enough To Wear Pink.

How did you become involved in Tough Enough to Wear Pink?

I was fortunate to be a part of the 2004 initial start of it. I kind of just fell into it. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Terry Wheatly really deserves credit for the whole program, but I was with Wrangler at the time and Terry and I have become great partners and friends over time. I know her husband and son are big professional team ropers, so we ran in the same circles. She had a great idea and if you look at what happened — $25 million later.

Gunnison is the largest supporter of Tough Enough to Wear Pink and has raised the most money, so it’s just natural to get over here. Plus you have beautiful country and beautiful weather. We get a chance to hang out for a couple of days and visit with Mike. Got a chance to play golf. It’s a great couple of days of relaxation for us and we like to help support the Tough Enough to Wear Pink initiative that we’re so proud of.

What is in the future of rodeo and how does it impact Gunnison?

I think the world of professional rodeo is made up of rodeos just like Gunnison. There are 624 sanctioned events. Every one of them has a little bit of a different footprint as to what they do, what they do for their communities and what they do on a level of whether it is vacation driven with fans, or if it’s a great ranching community. Gunnison has always been a great rodeo at a great time of year. With all the contracts that are signed now and all the sponsor contracts, I think it’s very stable — I know it is because I look at it every day. I think the PRCA has changed a little bit of its attitude and has begun to look at how the (rodeo) committees interact with the association itself. It’s called the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. I understand that but very frankly it takes all pieces of it to make it effective. We have to have strong committees. Our initiative in the next few years is to re-create the committees so we have new and young people coming into our business and helping at the committee level. Let’s face it, the committees are the ones who put up the money and take on the risk. Taking the risk is a big part of this deal. We need to make sure they’re being taken care of by way of the association. This initiative has been going on for a couple of years and I think it’s very important.

Does rodeo have any competition?

I’m about to retire at the end of December, but there’s plenty of help who will carry on the great tradition. It is traditionally paced so we have to be careful we don’t take too much
away from that. You’ve got to be progressive when it comes to this sport and where you fit and the competition for entertainment dollars. We’re just another piece — people can choose to come to the Gunnison rodeo or go to the movies or go out to dinner or whatever they do. We have to produce a really good product and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re proudest of the 600-plus rodeos we do and that’s why we’re here. We have a choice to go anywhere we want to — we choose to come to Gunnison this time of year.

Your donation helped push Tough Enough to Wear Pink over the $2 million fundraising mark. How does that feel?

We do what we need to do and we’re so happy to be a part of Tough Enough To Wear Pink. I don’t want to take anything away from Terry — that’s her program. I’ve seen it grow and I’ve witnessed it as they try to reach their goal of raising $50 million before their 20th anniversary.

What’s been the best part of your visit?

I get to hang out with Mike Dawson.

Published Gunnison Country Times
July 20, 2017