A conversation in a truck stop has turned into a quarter-century-old Henryetta tradition.
Tammie and Mark Hiatt were in a truck stop Iowa on their way to a rodeo when they were asked by Henryetta doesn’t have a rodeo.
rodeo recall“That set the wheels in motion and here we are 25 years later,” she said.
The city gave the group a piece of land at Nichols park with only brush, dirt and rocks on it. A lot of work was required to get it in shape. The first few years required everything to be over before dark. "We didn't have any lights," said Mark Hiatt. About four years ago, the original lights were replaced giving the arena even more illumination.
The Hiatts were members of the Henryetta Chamber and brought it up at the next meeting. $12,000 was allocated for construction of the arena. Through help from other rodeo friends and lots of volunteer work, they were able to hold a rodeo.
The first rodeo had some surplus bleachers available with other spectators bringing their lawn chairs.
Andy and I were standing with our arms on the pipe fence. I was starting to sweat that nobody would come. “Pretty soon over the hill, they started to come with their lawn chairs.” she said.
Mark, Tammie and Andy Bealko are three of the original committee members. They are still trying to come to grips with the idea that the rodeo turns 25 this Labor Day. It originally was held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons but the typical late summer heat was tough on both contestants and livestock.shoulders trophy
At first the rodeo did not have a real name but several years into it, Henryetta legend Jim Shoulders was approached about three years
“You’ve had so many awards presented there’s nothing we can give you except I want to give you this arena and name it the Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo Arena. He was really thrilled with that.” Instead of a ribbon cutting, Shoulders christened the arena with pickup men holding a length of rope and he cut it.
Many of those years saw Shoulders attending the performances. He took his last time at the arena when his funeral was held in the middle of the arena. Famed rodeo announcer Clem McSpadden gave the eulogy at Shoulders’ funeral.
His wife, Sharon, maintains the family presence every year.
The 25 years of performances has brought some top riders and ropers. “There are some rodeos that you want to miss and there’s some you don’t,” Hiatt said.
“For the size town we are, we try to put on a quality rodeo performance for the spectators and the cowboys,” Mark Hiatt said.
Those performances have been held heat and rain. “Jim said, ‘a cowboy doesn’t get rained out, he gets rained on.’”
The arena has also been the setting for weddings and even a movie scene.
This year the rodeo is going to be preceded with a special monument dedication honoring Jim Shoulders. It will be held the Saturday before with a permanent man-made boulder marking the entrance to the arena.
Looking ahead to this year’s performance, Tammie is relatively close-lipped offering only there will be an exciting special horsemanship performance as part of the activities. “We have some surprises in store. There’s some custom event jackets being made for event winners. “If you want to see a wild Roman rider, this girl is it. She rides three horses barefoot,” Hiatt said. “There will be two prizes for all-around cowboy and all around cowgirl.”
The rodeo will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1 and Sunday, Sept. 2 this year.

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