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Let's Rodeo

During the 2023 Archer County Rodeo, the Archer County Museum and Arts Center held a pop-up exhibit on the rodeo grounds. This exhibit was open to the public and had artifacts temporarily loaned by locals, including Bobbi Loran's Archer County Rodeo Queen and Miss Rodeo Texas sashes, Hunter Cure's Steer Wrestling Championship saddle from 2022 Houston Rodeo, Sonny Lavender's hat and plaques recognizing his achievements as a bull rider, horse breeder and trainer, to name a few. The information below includes what was on display during this exhibit.

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The Archer County Rodeo

The first rodeo held by the then-Archer Livestock Association was in 1945, and the association started with 90 members. Since then, a rodeo has been held annually, except in 2020, due to COVID. The second rodeo boasted an estimated 7,000 attendees, and by the 1949 rodeo, attendance had grown to 10,000!

Rodeo grounds in 1946, June 27, 1946, Archer County News

According to the 1940 Census, Archer City had a population of 1,675, and Archer County had 7,599 residents and 6,819 by 1950. You can imagine how exciting and packed these early rodeos were!

President Wade (Bud) Ray, Secretary-Treasurer Jack O'Donahoe, and Vice President Les Evans (left to right), June 7, 1951, Archer County News

From 1946 until 1975, the Wildcats also used the arena for their football games until an official field was built.

The grandstands at the rodeo grounds were wooden until the early 80s when they were replaced with metal bleachers.

Excerpt from 1948 Archer County Rodeo Program

Prizes were usually sponsored or made by local businesses. During the pop-up exhibit, the saddle awarded to the all-round cowboy of the 1948 Archer County Rodeo, Robert Williams of Putnam, was on display.

Travis Nelson


From Archer City, Tx

Nelson displays fangs on rattlesnake

William Travis Nelson was a pillar in the Archer community. The 2023 Archer County Rodeo was dedicated in his honor, as he served on the Archer County Rodeo Association's board for 68 years and was involved in the rodeo since 1955.

Travis Nelson and Bertie Koetter wed in 1956

Nelson moved to Archer City when he was seven years old. At 21, he enlisted in the Navy and served for four years. Nelson was stationed in Hawaii for the majority of that time. After meeting his wife, Roberta (Bertie) from Windthorst, they settled in Archer City.

Photograph of Texaco Station from May 1, 1969, Archer County News

Nelson ran his Texaco Station on the corner of Plum and South Center from 1960 until 2010.

Nelson with his handmade round stirrup

Nelson was also involved in the Chamber of Commerce, Archer County Junior Livestock Show Association, annual Rattlesnake Round-Up, Volunteer Fire Department, ambulance service, and sat on the Archer City Council, even acting as Mayor Pro-Tem for a year.

Sonny Lavender


Born in Dundee, Tx

Lavender, second to the right in black hat, being awarded 1948 championship saddle

Thomas "Sonny" Lavender was the World Bull Riding Champion in 1948 at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo.

Lavender participated in rodeos nationwide and ranked as the all-round cowboy in several local rodeos.

Lavender bull riding with mask after being gashed previously by this bull

In 1946, Lavender won a pair of cowboy boots as the best all-around cowboy at the Archer County Annual Rodeo.

At one rodeo in Sweetwater, Lavender was the only contestant to stay on the bull for the entire 8 seconds.

Lavender being presented with trophy at the Ruidoso Downs, 1975

He retired from the rodeo circuit in the early 60s and began to train racehorses.

Lavender was active in the Holliday community, evidenced by his coordination of roping activities for a few of Holliday's celebrations and giving a horse-buying demonstration to the Junior Horse Club.

Hunter Cure


From Dundee, Tx

Portrait from Wrangler Network

Hunter Cure has been perfecting his rodeo skills since the age of 14, which led him to his Steer Wrestling World Championship titles in 2013 and 2015.

Cure steer wrestling at Reno Rodeo in 2018, Matt Cohen Photography

The Archer County Rodeo was Cure's first rodeo against adults.

Cure attended Texas Tech and competed with the collegiate rodeo team.

Cure moved to Dundee in 2007, shortly after he graduated and married his wife, Bristi.

Cure has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo six times, his first qualification being in 2009 and the latest in 2019.

Cure celebrating after 2019 National Finals Rodeo, Steve Gray, PRCA

Cure is nearing retirement as he has suffered from seven concussions throughout his rodeo career, which has taken a toll on his body. Also, being on the rodeo circuit up to 185 days a year can be difficult with family and young kids.

Johnnie Miller


Born in Archer City, Tx

Miller, on right, presents Archer County Museum with his saddle

Johnnie Francis Miller participated in his first rodeo at age 13.

His rodeo career lasted for 11 years, during which he traveled across the nation before he moved back to Archer County.

Miller's rodeo career took place primarily during the Depression, but in a news article, he said that people still showed out for the rodeos on the East Coast.

Miller with rodeo medal, October 28, 1976, Archer County News

Potentially Miller's most serious accident was during a Madison Square Garden rodeo.

He was riding a horse named Milkshake when he reared up and landed on Miller. Miller lay unconscious in the hospital for several days.

Debbie Parker


From Archer City, Tx

1972 Miss Rodeo Texas

Debbie Carter Parker had rodeo in her blood, and it was said she could ride a horse as soon as she could walk. She won her first trophy at the Lawton rodeo at age 6.

Parker was the 1966 Archer County Rodeo Queen and the 1972 Miss Rodeo Texas, becoming the first Archer County Resident to be crowned Miss Rodeo Texas.

Parker riding a horse during Miss Rodeo Texas appearance

Parker became Miss Rodeo Texas while attending Texas Tech and balanced her school load while traveling the state for speaking engagements and rodeo queen business.

Parker as a Wildcat cheerleader, September 11, 1969, Archer County News

Parker was a very accomplished student of Archer City. She was drum major in the junior high band, held countless 4H trophies, received UIL journalism honors, sat on McCall's Teen Fashion Board, and was named to the All-District basketball team.

Sadly, Parker died in a car accident in Wichita Falls at 25.

Bobbi Loran


From Scotland, Tx

2021 Miss Rodeo Texas

Bobbi Loran had dreamed of being Miss Rodeo Texas since she was eight. She became the 2013 Archer County Junior Rodeo Queen and the 2016 Archer County Senior Rodeo Queen.

Loran as Miss Rodeo Texas, Devin Sisk Photography

Loran was an Archer City graduate and was involved in FFA, 4H, band, twirling, cross country, UIL, and track.

She graduated from Midwestern State University in 2020 and became Miss Rodeo Texas in 2021.

Loran as Archer County Senior Rodeo Queen

Loran is the second woman from Archer County named Miss Rodeo Texas out of the organization's almost 60 years of pageants.

She said in one interview, "The young girl that was crowned Miss Archer County Junior Rodeo Queen never would have believed that she would ever be crowned Miss Rodeo Texas. It truly is a dream come true."

Loran's love of the Western industry has since led her to working for the American Quarter Horse Association to help preserve the breed.

Louis Blair


From Holliday, Tx

Rodeo Program printed in July 18, 1940 Baylor County Banner

Louis Blair began cowboying at the age of 14 and, by 18, was competing in rodeos and clowning. He participated in rodeos for over 30 years and was a rodeo clown for many of the Archer County Rodeos. His acts also included trained animals like donkeys, dogs, and skunks.

This painting by Anita Palmer depicts Louis Blair performing a vehicle jump during a rodeo in 1940.

Louis Blair on George by Anita Palmer

Blair is said to have trained "George" originally to jump fences as he didn't want to dismount to open and close each gate while checking pipelines in Megargel.

Blair then taught him to jump long distances and included these tricks in his rodeo acts, as captured in this painting.

Article from December 12, 1946, Archer County News

Blair was also decorated as a fearless coyote hunter in the county and often held the highest coyote count in the county as part of a government program to reward the decrease in the coyote population as it reduced the loss of livestock.

Nat Fleming


From Wichita Falls, Tx

Fleming announcing, June 2, 1949, Archer County News

Nat Fleming began to announce rodeos in his late 20s and continued to be a rodeo announcer during the summers.

Fleming was a staple during the early Archer County Rodeos and announced 29 of the first 30 rodeos.

Portrait of Fleming, The Cow Lot

However, Fleming was best known for the Cow Lot, a western wear store that opened in 1952 in Wichita Falls.

Customers from all over the nation came to him for well-made custom boots and hats.

Nat's Hats display at the Museum of North Texas History

When a customer came to replace a hat, Fleming would keep the worn-out hat and display them in the store. This collection can now be seen at the Museum of North Texas History.

Fleming passed in 2018; however, his son carries on his legacy in custom hats and reopened The Cow Lot.

Archer City Volunteer Fire Department

Archer City Volunteer Fire Department planning 1949's West Texas Fireman's Association meeting held in Archer City

The Archer City Volunteer Fire Department was officially organized in 1929 but can trace its roots back to 1917.

They have consistently operated the concession stand on the rodeo grounds since the mid-70s. Before then, the concession stand was worked by the Fire Department and the American Legion on alternate years. In 1983, a larger structure replaced the original concession stand and is the one there today.

The concession stand was once the Fire Department's big fundraiser to raise its annual operating budget. However, since Archer City added a donation option to residents' water bills and the outpouring of community support, the concession stand's operation has turned into a chance to give back to the community and support the rodeo. They have managed to keep concession prices low due to this support.

The largest crowd-pleaser is the rodeo dog, a chili-topped hot dog, and have had individuals order up to 20 at a time. They also serve popcorn, nachos, and snow cones. The snow cone machine is the same from the early 70s and has been shaving ice for decades for rodeo attendees and participants alike.

Local Support

Historically, local businesses supported the rodeo as it attracted many visitors! An article in the Archer County News suggests that merchants first purchased flags to decorate their storefronts for the rodeo in 1951. To this day, businesses still buy and display rodeo bunting to enhance the square and show their support! Companies usually took out rodeo-themed ads in the newspaper the week of the rodeo. Here are a few examples over the decades.

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