75th Rodeo will go down in record books

Chairman says ticket sales have to be "knocking" on records


FORT MADISON – Using the word phenomenal to describe this year’s Tri-State Rodeo isn’t out of bounds.
Chuck Kempker, the General Chairman of the 75th Tri-State Rodeo, said this year’s event couldn’t have been scripted any better.
When asked if this year’s Rodeo maybe was the best ever, Kempker didn’t mince words.
“That’s about as fair of a statement as you're gonna get,” he said. “I could not have scripted it any better than what the outcome was.”
The Rodeo was a complete sellout Wednesday for the Jim Baier/Dodge Ram Chute-Out and Saturday’s finale was also sold out.
But Kempker said Friday’s show with country Hall of Famers Alabama on stage was definitely something for the record books.
“We were at least a thousand plus over capacity on Friday night. And Alabama certainly did their part. It was memorable for sure. I breathed a sigh of relief when they opened the gates to let the crowd spill into the arena and let off some of the pressure,” Kempker said.
Kempker also gave a big thumbs up to Mother Nature.
“You just can’t ignore that part. You have to put the great weather in there, too. It was a gorgeous week. You could not have planned for anything that great,” Kempker said.
“This is just one of those things where you go through the year and you just plan it to go as good as possible and hope for the best. The outcome this year was fantastic.”
Typically, the General Chairman takes the role for two years, but Kempker was asked to take on the 75th Anniversary as a one-time Chairman. He said he’s fine with doing it just one time. He had served as chairman in 2000-2001 and has been part of the rodeo operating committee for close to two decades.
He said planning the rodeo’s 75th anniversary was a group effort.
“Everything just fell into place, the community, the committee, Holy Trinity’s volunteer group, any hiccups couldn’t even be called minor,” he said. “Everything ran as smooth as it could’ve. You have in the back in your mind what you’re thinking, and you take it to the board of directors. Then you have them standing behind you and saying this is where we need to be.”
Ticket sales usually range from 29,000 to 32,000 and Kempker said preliminary numbers this year show closer to 36,000 tickets were sold for the four-day event.
“We’re gonna be close to 36,000 tickets sold, which has got to be knocking on some kind of record,” he said.
Fans were treated to a visit from Governor Kim Reynolds who stayed for the entire rodeo, as well as other dignitaries from around the area. They also were treated to a visit from Rodeo Hall of Famer Bob Tallman who worked Wednesday’s Chute-Out with the incomparable Boyd Polhamus.
“Anybody in the rodeo would take Bob and Boyd together. And it was nice to have the governor. She enjoyed it and stayed for the whole rodeo and had good things to say about it,” Kempker said.
He said he couldn’t remember the last time a sitting governor attended the rodeo, but he says it helps keep southeast Iowa prominent in Des Moines.
The Tri-State Board of Directors will likely name Kempker’s two-year successor in October following the wrap-up dinner.
“This was perfect for me to take the 75th and run with it. They’re a lot of people here who can step up and we have some of the best volunteers here. This rodeo isn’t going anywhere.”

Tri-State Rodeo, wrap-up, Chuck Kempker, 75th Anniversary, news, feature, Lee County, Iowa, Fort Madison, Pen City Current


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  • Truthbomb

    Big crowds are no longer a thing I do good with so no rodeo for me, but I couldn't be happier that this event went over like gang-busters this year. I work 30 minutes away from Fort Madison with co-workers who are over an hour away who went and said they had a great time. One of the things they weren't aware of was that the concession stand is "owned" by Holy Trinity and the proceeds from it go directly to the school--and they thought it was a great thing! We have many international employees who attended and they had three things they shared with me...1. Everyone was so friendly 2. BIG PARTY! 3. Next time, they're camping!

    Congratulations to the committee and the volunteers for an excellent job!

    Tuesday, September 19, 2023 Report this