Having your life revolve around rodeo isn’t something that all folks get to experience. We were thrilled when we had the opportunity to interview, Bill Armstrong, who is the Rodeo Director for the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo, also known as Payson Pro Rodeo.
CLN: Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and the role you play in the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee?
Bill: The Chamber of Commerce owned the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo and we were paid to run it for them. I Was the Co-Rodeo Boss for the 100th World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo as this was Jim Barrett’s last year. He had served many years but was retiring. This rodeo was in 1984, held at the old Rumsey Arena but it was actually the 101st Annual Rodeo. 1884 through 1984 is 101 years so the 100th Rodeo would have been in 1983. There was a great celebration as people commemorated what they believed to be the 100th. So, I actually started my Rodeo Boss career for the Payson Rodeos at the 101st Annual in 1984.
The Chamber had a hard time getting volunteers and was having a hard time making money, so we formed a new Committee, the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee. In 2011, we had the opportunity to purchase the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. Art Lloyd, a long-time friend, and legal council, helped us during this purchase and as a matter of fact, he has been there for many years helping us getting the committee incorporated and our nonprofit status.
CLN: Do you have a background in rodeo and the western lifestyle?
Bill: I competed one time in bull riding in 1956. He threw me and I landed on my head. That was it for me! I didn’t get seriously involved in rodeo until my kids started competing. I started volunteering so I could be with them. At one point, I had 7 kids riding. We spent every weekend at rodeos. My rodeo career progressed. I was on the board of directors for the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association. Later, I worked in various positions with the National High School and National College rodeos. At the same time is when I was offered the assistant rodeo boss job in 1984, I was working the Turquoise Circuit of the pro rodeo tour. I started volunteering for the Payson Rodeo in 1974 and my first job was pulling gates for the contestants. I worked other rodeos helping out around the state. I worked in the Turquoise Circuit finals for 20 years. I worked every job needed to put on a rodeo performance.
CLN: What has it been like to see the Payson Pro Rodeo change over the years?
Bill: It’s gone from good to the best! The committee is what made the rodeo. We have the best volunteer group that I know of. All of our money stays in town to provide scholarships for our students. We donate to organizations that need help such as Reach Out for Breast Cancer, the seniors for Meal on Wheels, and student athletics.
We have the best cowboys that come to our rodeo. I stay in touch with them, reach out to them to ask them to come to our rodeo. We have had Ty Murray several times, Charlie Sampson, Cody Hancock, Mark Gomes, Wes Severson, and Sage Kimzey this last year. There are so many that we have had, hard to mention them all. Along with the money, we give Leon King spurs. The cowboys and cowgirls love this! We have the best sponsors. Over the years, I have been able to get the National Sponsors. We are one of the few rodeos to have them. We have great local sponsors that support us.
CLN: What do you hope to still accomplish with the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee?
Bill: To keep the western heritage alive and going. My advice to the committee and my motto through the years – Be positive and be dedicated! Keep building and making it stronger. I have spent half of my life on this rodeo, lost 3 wives to it.
CLN: Describe one of your favorite memories of serving with the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee?
Bill: The best memory is when we were honored to receive the Small Outdoor Rodeo Committee of the Year in 1993 by the PRCA. We were at the National Finals, in the arena where we were announced. We were back behind and got to meet the cowboys.
CLN: Do you have anything you’d like to add that hasn’t been mentioned?
Payson is one of the few places that have two professional rodeos, the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo and the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. Come see our rodeo. If you miss it then you missed a good one. Let’s Rodeo!
*Special Note from daughter* – Bill Armstong is very modest with his successes in the rodeo. He will and always says – “It is the committee and the volunteers that make the rodeo.” Interviewing him for his successes is very difficult but as his stepdaughter and now serving on the Board of Directors and the treasurer for the rodeo committee, he will not say that the reason that we have best cowboys is that he personally watches rodeo 24/7. He knows the cowboys and cowgirls; he knows their standings and he knows how to talk with them and encourage them. He is also adamant that the stock contractors bring the animals that they can win or place on. Very humbly and I was surprised, he mentioned that he was able to get the national sponsors to our rodeo. This really was a great accomplishment and success for Bill and for the Payson Rodeos.
CLN Community & Event Sponsor