(Courtesy of the Beef Empire Days staff)
GARDEN CITY, Kan. — Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo, and two of them on the committee represent the Hispanic and Native American population in Garden City.
Wally Garcia and Luis Castillo are volunteers with the Beef Empire Days Rodeo, and love what they do.
Garcia, a fifty-year resident of southwest Kansas, has been on the committee nearly since the rodeo started 33 years ago. Born in Alamo, Texas in 1960, his dad was part Native American and his mom was part Native American and part Mexican.
He was asked to be on the committee by Don Fisher, and since joining, has done about everything there is to do with putting on a rodeo. He started in the back chutes, taking the flanks straps off bucking bulls. He’s helped put up portable pens for livestock, meeting sponsors, and served as the chair of the Beef Empire Days Rodeo Queen committee for eight years.
Dora, his wife of 48 years, knows that when it’s rodeo time, her husband won’t be home much. He’ll be at the Finney County Fairgrounds, volunteering his time. “She’s very understanding,” Garcia said. “She knows that when it’s rodeo season, she won’t see me for three or four days.”
Garcia used to team rope, his daughters were barrel racers, and his son rode steers. Now his two daughters and son are grown and he has fifteen grandkids and five great-grandkids. His family usually makes it back for the rodeo, and Garcia puts them to work. “They come back and somehow or other, I get them involved in something,” he said. “I ask them to come and see the rodeo, and when I have them here, I ask them to help. I have grandchildren who are involved, and now I have great-grandchildren wanting to get involved.” His sisters even help. “Whether we need help at the concession stands, the VIP area, or picking up trash, they’re willing to do everything. I make sure they have something to do.”
Luis Castillo has only been on the committee for two years, but he’s hooked. The twenty-seven year old was asked to join by another committeeman, Tim Joyce, and he enjoys it. As a Hispanic on the committee, he approaches the Hispanic business community for sponsorships.
The week of the rodeo, he leaves his job as the manager of a local co-op and heads to Garden City to work till dark, setting up portable livestock pens and water tanks, getting the grounds ready, and preparing the chutes.
He and his wife Diana and their two daughters and son attended all three nights of rodeo before he became a volunteer, and they still do. Castillo team ropes for fun and any time there’s a rodeo within an hour’s travel, he family loads up and goes. “I’ve always enjoyed it,” he said.
He loves watching the bareback riding and the bucking horses and bulls. He admires the toughness of the bareback riders. “They take a beating,” during their ride, he said. “You have to be tough to ride bareback horses.” The athleticism of the animals appeals to him. “For as big as those animals are, they’re pretty good athletes.”
Garcia’s favorite part of the rodeo is the presentation of the American flag. “I’m very patriotic,” he said. As the flag circles the arena, “I still try to stand pretty straight but Mother Nature has taken her toll. I’m not as straight as I used to be.”
Garcia was honored eleven years ago by the Beef Empire Days Rodeo committee with the Standard of the West award. The Standard of the West award is given to a committeeman chosen by the local committee, and that person receives a pair of Justin Boots.
Even though it’s a lot of work, both men agree that they love working with the rodeo. “I like it and will keep doing it as long as I can,” Castillo said.
“I’m never going to stop,” Garcia said.
The Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo takes place May 23-25 at 7 pm each night. Tickets range in price from $12 to $20 if purchased in advance, and are available online at www.beefempiredaysrodeo.com. At the gate, tickets are $4 more per ticket. Ticket outlets include Crazy House, Baker Boots, and Garden City True Value.
For more information, visit the website at www.BeefEmpireDaysRodeo.com.