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LOVINGTON, N.M. â€“ When Corey Heltonâ€™s daughter, Megan, was younger, she was actively involved in livestock showing.
Primarily she showed lambs and goats, but she also spent a couple years showing pigs. It takes a lot of work and a lot of care to get animals ready. It also takes a supportive family.
Enter Helton, who went from assisting his daughter to being involved in the community by serving as a volunteer at the annual Lea County Fair and Rodeo, which will take place Aug. 1-9 at the Lea County Fairgrounds in Lovington.
â€śIâ€™ve been associated with the fair for about 15 years since my daughter started showing,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™ve been around the fair in Lovington all these years. It was a way of life. When Megan stopped showing, this was a way to continue to give back. Iâ€™m just trying to keep the fair in the direction and the atmosphere that itâ€™s always been.â€ť
His commitment to the exposition is why he is serving as chairman of the fair board.
â€śThe flagship event for the county is the Lea County Fair and Rodeo,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s that one week a year that everybody comes together and catches up. Without the citizens here, I donâ€™t think we could do it. The support from them is unbelievable, especially in terms of the financial support. What other support we need, we seem to have it.â€ť
Thatâ€™s the way volunteerism works, and itâ€™s a key reason the expo is so successful. It takes a boatload of volunteers to make a community event like that happen, especially in a county thatâ€™s as large as Lea County, which sits in New Mexicoâ€™s southeastern corner.
â€śWe have our fair board, which is appointed by the county commission,â€ť Helton said. â€śWe have subcommmittees, like the rodeo committee and the entertainment committee. All the fair board members chair at least one of these committees. The fair board meets once a month, then the committees will have their meetings.
â€śWe have a lot of very dedicated people who give a lot of time to make this a great event every year.â€ť
Helton is one of them. As chairman, he attends all the committee gatherings and also meets with the Lea County Commission once or twice a month to keep commissioners updated on the goings-on. It takes great commitment to follow through all these duties.
â€śWhen the fair comes and I see all the hard work throughout the year paying off to the caliber of the fair, I think thatâ€™s greater than any salary than I could get,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s hard to explain, but when you consider that there are so many things going on in the fair, and I realize I had a hand in this.
â€śItâ€™s unbelievable seeing it all come together. We have a whole year of work, and it comes together in one week.â€ť
Helton grew up in northwest Wyoming, then joined the military, where he spent eight years in the U.S. Army. He moved to Lea County for a career in law enforcement. He just retired after 20 years with the Hobbs Police Department. His wife, Marilyn, grooms dogs.
Most importantly, they have made their home in this part of the country, and volunteering is a big part of what makes Corey Helton tick.
â€śEven though my daughter is done showing, I still like the livestock shows,â€ť he said. â€śThatâ€™s the bread and butter of the Lea County Fair. I think the rodeo and the concerts are a plus, but we cannot lose sight of what this fair represents, and that is the hard work that the kids do.â€ť
Heltonâ€™s passion for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is evident in just about everything he does. Most importantly, itâ€™s the smile he wears as he walks through the Lea County Fairgrounds in early August.
GUYMON, Okla. â€“ The Professional Bull Riders tour is home to many of the worldâ€™s greatest bull riders.
A good portion of those are making their way to the Oklahoma Panhandle for the Kasey Hayes & Stormy Wing Invitational PBR Touring Pro event, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena in Guymon.
â€śIf the fans have ever been to a PBR, they know how it goes,â€ť said Hayes, a five-time PBR World Finals qualifier from Liberal, Kan., just 40 miles northeast of Guymon. â€śI think they should expect to see the best bull riders and the best bulls.â€ť
Itâ€™s just what organizers wanted in this inaugural event in Texas County, Okla. The livestock will be provided by D&H Cattle Co. of Ardmore, Okla., one of the premier livestock producers in the PBR and ProRodeo. D&H has been named PBR stock contractor of the year, and its top bull, Shepherd Hills Tested, was named the 2013 Bull of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
â€śTheyâ€™ve got a phenomenal breeding program, and they come out with a new really rank bull every year,â€ť Hayes said.
The bulls are just one piece of the puzzle to having a high-quality event. Both Hayes and Wing are expecting many of the biggest names in the PBR to ride in Guymon during the one-night spectacular.
â€śI think what weâ€™ve got something good to offer the contestants, and itâ€™s one Iâ€™d want to go to,â€ť said Wing, a four-time PBR World Finals qualifier from Dalhart, Texas. â€śWith Kasey and I both being bull riders and living close to Guymon, I think it should be good.â€ť
Wing and Hayes are good. In addition to a strong history in the game, theyâ€™re having outstanding seasons. Wing is ranked 19th in the PBR world standings points race, while Hayes is 11th. Wing has earned $85,950 this season, and Hayes has pocketed $61,915.
â€śI think fans should expect something similar to a televised event,â€ť Wing said, referring to the PBR Built Ford Tough Series, the associationâ€™s premier tour. â€śAs long as everybodyâ€™s healthy, there are quite a few of the top guys that are planning to be there.â€ť
That bodes well for fans, but there are equally outstanding enticements for the cowboys. The purse will feature a minimum of $20,000 in local money, which will be added to the entry fees to tally the total prize.
â€śWhen you add a lot of money, itâ€™s easy for the guys to want to come,â€ť Hayes said.
Both cowboys are following in the footsteps of their bull riding fathers.
â€śMy dad had rode bulls, so I always wanted to ride bulls,â€ť Hayes said. â€śI was the kid at the local rodeo watching the bull riding. I never grew out of that stage.
â€śMy dad took me to every junior rodeo and every open bull riding there was; whatever we could get to, we went.â€ť\
Wing grew up on his familyâ€™s ranch 18 miles north of Dalhart, where they raise quarter horses.
â€śIâ€™ve been around it my whole life,â€ť he said. â€śI started when I was 4 years old. It was a little Memorial Day event. I went out there and got on my first steer; the rest is history.â€ť
Itâ€™s been a pretty good start for the 25-year-old cowboy, who has earned nearly $340,000 since joining the PBR six seasons ago. He has spent much of the summer break from the premier tour working at home, where he continues to work on the breeding program established by his grandfather.
â€śBesides bull riding, thatâ€™s my next love,â€ť he said of working with horses. â€śThatâ€™s what Iâ€™ll do when I retire, become a horseman and show these horses.â€ť
Of course, there is some unfinished business he must tend to first.
â€śFor sure I want to finish in the top 10 and possibly be up there for a world title race,â€ť he said. â€śMy ultimate goal is to be a world champion, and I will be; itâ€™s just a matter of time.â€ť
That goal is shared by just about every cowboy in the world. How they go about it depends on the man.
â€śI want to show up and ride consistently,â€ť Hayes said. â€śWhen I show up, Iâ€™m showing up to win. Iâ€™m expecting to win everywhere I go. I may not win first every time, but I want to place, and Iâ€™m going to give it everything Iâ€™ve got to make it happen.â€ť
For either cowboy, winning the Kasey Hayes & Stormy Wing Invitational would be a great way to continue that momentum.