Puyallup: News

Wranglers trade in 9-to-5 jobs for front seat to action

The Fair’s rodeo Wranglers, pictured here dressed in pink shirts for breast cancer awareness, make sure the rodeo events run seamlessly for the patrons and contestants while also ensuring the safety and well-being of all the rodeo livestock.
The Fair’s rodeo Wranglers, pictured here dressed in pink shirts for breast cancer awareness, make sure the rodeo events run seamlessly for the patrons and contestants while also ensuring the safety and well-being of all the rodeo livestock. Courtesy

They come from various backgrounds and work day jobs in different industries.

While some of them have experience ranching and working with livestock, many do not. The all-volunteer Puyallup Wranglers just get a thrill out of working the rodeo each year.

When the Washington State Fair’s Justin Boots Rodeo kicks off on Friday (Sept. 11) the Puyallup Wranglers will be on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly. Each year during the rodeo, Wranglers help with everything from running the hospitality area, shuttling the cowboys from one area to another, setting up the arena for the rodeo and working with contestants.

Wrangler Greg Root’s day job is an aircraft training lead for the KC-46 Tanker training program at Boeing, but during the annual run of the rodeo, he pulls on his cowboy boots and hat and helps make sure the rodeo is run safely and efficiently.

The rodeo is a well-timed event with a lot of big hitters competing for prize money, and the Wranglers understand that they are on the front lines of every event.

“As pro rodeo goes, we are still one of the richest events that comes through the area,” said Root, whose job is to draw the attention of the horse or bull to help lure them back into the gate after each event. “One of the things that sets us apart is we are invitation only, and we always bring in top tier contestants.”

Scotty Getchell, who works for US Foods, is in charge of the stripping chutes, used in roping arenas to contain steer while ropes are removed.

“It is a full team effort by all the Wranglers,” Getchell said. “My team works with the bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riders. Our team of three works in sync because the animal is geared up. We want to keep him calm, slow him down and get him steady so he can go back and eat some grass.”

Wrangler Johnny Rush is the latch man.

“I open the gate for the rough stock, the bucking horses and bulls, and it is a pretty critical position because you are at the point where you are letting that contestant and the animal out,” he said.

Rush, a senior account manager for Waste Connections, said there is so much that goes on behind the scenes of the rodeo that the audience never sees. There is no time for a rookie mistake.

The group’s biggest concerns are the production and safety of the rodeo, Root said.

“We want to present a good show to the fans and patrons, but we are all about the safety of the crew and the contestants,” he said.

Abbie Matlock, executive assistant/rodeo coordinator for the Washington State Fair, is very grateful for the help of the Wranglers.

Wranglers have been volunteering for the rodeo since 2000. Prior to 2000, Fair officials hired folks to do that work, Matlock said.

“These Wranglers are so dedicated and such a great group of people from all areas and they take the week off for the rodeo every year” she said.

The Wranglers put on their annual breakfast on the first day of the Fair, prepare the arena, work the rodeos and put on a golf tournament the Wednesday prior to the fair and rodeo.

“I can’t say enough about what a great group of people they are. They are very passionate and they love it,” Matlock said.

The safety of animals is extremely important to all involved in the Washington State Fair Rodeo.

“The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) puts a tremendous amount of effort into presenting care and well being of the animals,” Root said.

The rodeo would be tough to pull off without the help of all of the volunteer Wranglers. But they don’t really look at their participation as work — more a labor of love.

“This is my once-a-year chance to be a cowboy,” Getchell said.

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