FORT MADISON – The next three years of the Fort Madison Tri-State Rodeo are in good hands.
In October, the Rodeo committee announced Bobby Holtkamp will be the rodeo general chairman for the next three years.
Holtkamp slides into the position after more than 15 years volunteering with the rodeo committee on the advertising, hospitality, security, and pre-rodeo committees.
The Fort Madison native follows previous chairman Tony Johnson and Chuck Kempker, who took over in a rare 1-year term to usher in the rodeo’s 75th anniversary.
“I had some hopes that I would’ve been next, but there are a lot of good people involved with this,” Holtkamp said.
“Chuck took it and ran with it and had a great, great exciting year. It was record-setting and I’ve had some people since I was announced tell me that will be tough to follow. But I’m up for the challenge.
“I don’t think I’ll ever reach the level of Chuck’s event, but we’re not going to go backwards, we’re going to keep moving.”
Holtkamp said it was special to have Chuck run last year’s event because he was able to rely on his past rodeo experience to bring a special event to the C.E. “Eddie” Richard’s Arena on the rodeo grounds in September.
“It was such a cool thing for Chuck because he’s been involved for so many years and he brought back some of that old rodeo stuff - stuff that I never would have thought of doing.”
On Tuesday, Holtkamp was passed the ceremonial General Chairman Buckle from Johnson, who’s still recognized as past chairman.
The next three years will be full of excitement and learning for Holtkamp, but also a time that will cement him as one of a select group of leaders of one of the top PRCA outdoor rodeos in the Midwest.
“We’re one of the best,” he said. “It’s all about the community, having fun and letting loose. You don’t have to be a cowboy or cowgirl to enjoy the rodeo. Come on up and have some fun.”
Holtkamp was, as is typical with new general chairmen, very close to the chest on what his plans are for the future. He said there are plans, however.
“Yes, but nothing’s set in stone,” he said. “There are some capital projects that I would like to take on to improve, but I’m just diving into the budgets and what we can do with the guidance of the board.”
Holtkamp said all the past chairman have been helpful and full of suggestions and are a great resource, especially in the first year.
“They are a great sounding board, and you really want to listen to them.”
Holtkamp credits former Chairman Steve Link who encouraged him to join the rodeo volunteer effort.
“Kudos to Steve for pushing the envelope for me. As soon as I did, it was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made,” he said.
“To this day I remember, I was installing for my parents, and I had a van pulled up to a dumpster and was emptying the van. Steve came right up to me, and we started talking and, at first, I wasn’t interested. But I thought about it for about a week and then called him and said I was interested.”
Gary Lucas was Holtkamp’s first mentor on the committee. Lucas oversaw advertising and took Holtkamp under his wing and showed him that it just wasn’t about the advertising committee, but also how the committees help each other. Lucas stepped away after two years and Holtkamp took over as chairman.
Holtkamp said chairman of each committee gets the credit, but there is a strong staff, including assistant chairmen who do a ton of work behind the scenes and that’s where the engine really hums along.
He said after 15 years he thought he knew a lot of about the rodeo, but he said even the past three weeks there has been a ton of learning that has taken place.
“You hear past chairmen talk about how much of a time commitment it is and, since I’ve known I was the guy, they’ve been sending me all this stuff, and they weren’t kidding,” he said. “It’s been a big learning curve. Even though I was highly involved, I’m seeing now with the operation of the rodeo production it’s a ton of work. Three weeks in and this has been a lot of fun.”
He said the rodeo does not run itself, but sometimes it looks like it does.
“There is so much work that goes into it. But there are so many great people involved, it sure seems easy from the outside,” Holtkamp said.
Johnson said Holtkamp was the right decision to carry on the tradition of the rodeo.
“Obviously the logical thing in my mind to continue the tradition of the Tri-State Rodeo. Bobby’s going to do a great job,” Johnson said.
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