Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
John Hollenhorst ReportingGentleman, start your bucking broncos! It's that time of year again when the rodeo cowboys pull on their boots, twirl their lariats and show their stuff. And there's one place in Utah where that means a yearly bonanza for taxpayers.
What do you suppose a skateboard park has to do with rodeo? Well, it was built with rodeo money. Same with a new complex of ball fields. Ditto, the kiddy playground, and a fancy new indoor year-round horse arena. It's part of what makes the little town of Oakley unique.
Blake Frazier, Oakley Mayor: "As far as a city of a thousand people, I doubt that any of them have a 3 million dollar recreation complex."
And this is how it came to be -- 70 years of ridin' and ropin' and rasslin' with animals. The pre-rodeo warm-up last night was actually put on by the cowboys that didn’t make the cut. When Oakley's real rodeo starts tonight, some of the best in the business will show their stuff.
Usually there's a full house of paying customers. It's a point of pride: Oakley folks believe their rodeo is way better than the one in the big city.
Gerald Young, Rodeo Chairman: "We're not a circus kind of a rodeo, we don't have a lot of acts. It's just strictly bang-bang-bang rodeo!" Q: "The real thing?" A: "The real thing. It's the western real thing rodeo."
They've sold so many tickets over the last 70 years, it's kept local government afloat.
Ken Woolstenhulme, Summit County Commissioner: "It has meant we've been able to keep our taxes really low, probably the lowest in the state."
This year the rodeo is in fancy new digs. The new outdoor arena is part of a sprawling new recreation complex. They've poured about 3 million dollars into the new facilities, but they figure they saved about a half-million because of volunteer labor.
That's the other side of the Oakley story. Hundreds of volunteers pitch, especially this year, getting the new facilities ready.
Brent Mildon, Oakley Volunteer: “Everything centers around the rodeo and always has for many years.”
The rodeo has given much to Oakley. The volunteers give it back. This year's performances are totally sold out, except for tonight's. If you head up there right now, you might just find a few tickets left.