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Interview: Cavalcade from the chairman’s view

As the Pawhuska International Roundup Club Cavalcade begins its 67th anniversary, the Journal-Capital visited with Chairman Jeff Bute about how this has evolved with today’s technology-challenged world. Currently, there are 97 amateur roundup clubs participating in this event from across Oklahoma and Kansas. Based upon Internet sales, attendees hail from Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado and Missouri.

JC: As a father, can you tell us how your three daughters have been involved with the Cavalcade?

My oldest daughter Taylor McGee won the Pawhuska Roundup Club Queen title in 2006 and ran for Cavalcade Queen in 2003. She has participated in at least one event every year since 2003. Taylor has graduated from college and is now married with a 3-year old daughter. She also works in the Cavalcade office with Kate Huddleston.

Kaci, my middle daughter, graduated high school last year and is beginning her sophomore year at Oklahoma State University. She won the Pawhuska Roundup Club Queen title in 2009 and followed that up with a 2nd runner-up finish in the Cavalcade Queen Contest in 2010. She has competed in at least one Cavalcade event since 2005. She is working this year on the barrel crew for our arena director, Bud Gould.

My youngest daughter, Shelby won the Pawhuska Roundup Club Princess title in 2011. She is still too young to compete for either of the queen titles; but, there is no doubt that she will follow in her sisters footsteps. Shelby is already talking about her horse’s strong points in helping her win a title.

JC: Who are the directors?

The Pawhuska Roundup Club Board of Directors are Joe Sweeden, Brad Swan, Steve Milligan, Kojak Holloway, Scott Williams, Eusty Barbee, Bart Perrier, Jeanne Strom, Jason Howell, and myself. Cavalcade Directors are Kate (Chambers) Huddleston as Secretary, Bud Gould oversees the Arena, Bart Perrier handles Security, Joe Sweeden Marketing, Scott Williams Facilities, Joyce Moore Admissions, Clint Reid Coggins, Eusty Barbee is our Queen Director, and myself.

JC: What type of changes have been implemented since you became Chairman six years ago?

I have not really made a lot of major changes. The Cavalcade was a well-run organization when I was handed the reins. The only thing that I made a push to do was to get the word out locally that this was a good event to support. Without the support of your home town, events such as this will not be successful. We have had to keep up technologically so we have created a website and a Facebook page which is a necessity for an event of this scale. We have also made a concerted effort to keep our costs down for our participants. As a result, we have made a much more aggressive push for corporate sponsorship to help offset our costs for our overhead, such as our stock contractor, band contracts and other costs so that we do not have to pass that on to our participants. Our online ticket outlet, Ticketweb, has allowed us to scale our ticket offerings so that our clubs that know they are coming can save a considerable amount of money on admission and make it a very affordable family vacation. As far as our gate admission goes, I am not aware of another rodeo that is less expensive at the gate.

JC: What about the Queen’s event?

Some major changes have been made in the queen contest. With the implementation of the Queens Barbeque on Tuesday evening, we have been able to increase the amount of prize money to our queen up to $1,000 and a custom-made Yochum’s saddle which has been sponsored by the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce every year for the past four years.

JC: Dancing under the Stars has always been a popular attraction for the Cavalcade. What have you done to increase attendance at these events?

The only other change has been in the bands that we get to come play our dance. We have gone to contracting nationally touring acts for our rodeo dances. The addition of these acts has really help support our attendance and put us on the map in the music industry as well. Our directors have all felt that our “Dance under The Stars” is a major part of Cavalcade tradition so we intentionally do not have opening acts for our music stars just to keep this a dance. Our bands seem to appreciate this as well. Jason Boland has said every year that we are “the real deal” and his agent just holds this week for us. The Casey Donahew band has even gone a step further and they are going to participate this year in the Saturday night performance. Casey Donahew, his bass guitar player Steve and their keyboard player are going to participate against the Cavalcade Director team in a heads-up match wild-cow milking that should be a lot of fun. The loser will have to present the winner with buckles on stage during the dance later that night.

JC: Can you share your thoughts about partnerships?

The Cavalcade is all about partnerships — partnerships with the City, County, FFA, Sponsors and staff. Our partnership with the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce has probably been the key to helping us regain our local support that is so critical in our events success. Our partnership with the County has been instrumental in the creation of a fairground that can put on an event of this scale as well as keeping another entire city safe. There is no doubt in my mind that the Osage County Fairgrounds could host the most popular events in our sport. Partnerships with other major sponsors, such as the Osage County Tourism Commission, Osage Casino, Clayton Swan Trucking, Swinford Equipment Company in Morrison, Davis-Moore Autogroup of Ponca City and Panhandle Slim, should receive the credit for us being able to attract guests and keep them here in our town for a week-long event.

JC: One major change you implemented was to fill the Cavalcade with week-long activities. How successful has this been?

The changes made to the rodeo schedule, I believe, have helped tremendously with the physical well-being of our staff as well as provided other opportunities for our guests to explore our town. Having a Tuesday morning performance allows us to work out start-up kinks in an atmosphere that is not quite as highly charged as starting off with an evening performance. In addition, eliminating the Saturday morning performance has allowed our clubs to become more competitive in the parade and much less rushed. It has probably contributed in the slight decrease in some of our contestant numbers due to the fact that previously our Saturday morning performance attracted so many contestants; but, the break at that point in our week has been much healthier for our staff. I have never felt that an events’ schedule should define the event. Our schedule is built with our contestants and staff as our top priorities and will be subject to change as demographics change.

JC: Have you had an opportunity to take advantage of the indoor arena?

We use the indoor arena as our “rain out insurance” for our dances. In addition, it has been helpful in the sense that we can get the stock in some shade during the afternoon. We will probably use for our Kiddio playday that is held on Thursday afternoon. Outside of that, I do not ever see us utilizing it for our rodeo. We have too many vendors and sponsors that are set up as well as all of our advertising banners that are set up in the outdoor arena to be able change venues just because of weather. If it rains, our contestants will have to rodeo in the mud. Lightning will however, temporarily shut us down.

JC: Have you expanded camping amenities (water lines, electricity, showers, etc.)?

Infrastructure is an ongoing project. We add or upgrade electric boxes and add water lines every year. This is one of those areas where our partnership with the County is very strong.

JC: Does the Sheriff’s office still provide security?

Yes. Bart Perrier is our security director and puts together our security plan that is executed by the Sheriff’s office. We hire a large staff of off-duty deputies and other law enforcement officers to assist us with keeping all of our guests safe. To assist in this endeavor, the Sheriff’s Department maintains an onsite office located behind the bandstand during the duration of the event.

JC: How well attended are your dances? Are the big band names drawing more attendees?

Attendance at our nightly dances has grown significantly. There is no doubt this can be attributed to the quality of bands that we have hired. The June addition of “The Best in Texas Music” had three of our five bands rated in the first, second and third spots on the Texas Music Chart. This week’s chart shows that all four of our bands playing at the fairgrounds have a song in the top 25. With the increased attendance at our dance, we have also been able to expose more spectators to our rodeo so our rodeo attendance has grown significantly as well.

JC: Are you being covered by any of the TV stations?

I have not been notified of any intended coverage this year. In years past, we have been interviewed on the local Tulsa stations and have also had appearances on several of the morning news shows. We have a couple of different live radio broadcasts that are scheduled this year and we will be visited by Bud and Broadway with 106.1 “The Twister,” who will introduce Jason Boland & The Stragglers at our Friday night dance.

JC: Do you have any comments you would like to share with our readers?

I think that if you chose to interview any of our directors or staff, the thing that would become most apparent is the pride that each individual takes in the role they play for putting the Cavalcade on. Pawhuska is very fortunate to have an event that has had the longevity that the Cavalcade has enjoyed. In addition, I am very blessed and humbled to work with such a dedicated staff. They are all family to me.

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