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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

The man behind the scenes

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mike Conway
SIKESTON - For someone heading up the 2005 Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo, Mike Conway is spending more time behind the scenes than watching the show.

However, he is learning to tune into the action. When a roar goes up from the crowd, Conway strains to get a look at the instant replay on the video scoreboard. Giving a nod of approval, Conway goes back to his rounds along the rodeo grounds making sure all is running smoothly.

As rodeo chairman, missing out on some of that rodeo action is price you have to pay, Conway said. But, he continued, it is a price he is willing to pay for a job he wanted. In fact Conway admitted he campaigned for it.

An elected position, two years ago, Conway sought to be rodeo co-chairman. That gave him the opportunity to learn about the duties while he worked with chairman Lloyd Stoner Jr. This year he is in charge assisted by co-chairman Chris Harper.

"I've always wanted to be chairman of the rodeo. I felt a certain obligation to give some service back to the community and surrounding area," explained Conway.

"You get more out of being chairman and being active than you put into it. I've made a lot of good friends and have the satisfaction I'm helping the area out a little bit - it's a win-win situation," he said.

Not that Conway isn't used to being active in the Jaycees. This is his 12th year of being involved in the rodeo, having served on various committees from concessions to grounds to capital improvements. Also he was Jaycee president in 2001.

As co-chair in 2004, Conway said he got the experience to make him feel comfortable with tackling the chairmanship this year. But, he added, there is a lot you don't realize about the job until it is yours.

"There are a hundred little things behind the scenes that nobody realizes goes on. All the negotiation of contracts, handling grievances, making contacts with national sponsors and concession companies to ensure you have the best performance for our patrons."

It is a time-consuming job as well. Conway estimated he has spent hundreds of hours on this year's rodeo and admitted it can put a strain on family and work. "But it definitely is a rewarding experience," he said. "I'm glad I did it."

Even with his years of involvement in the rodeo, Conway said he didn't realize the immense coordination of labor needed. As the rodeo continues to grow each year, it requires more manpower to put on the event.

He estimated currently there are some 300 to 400 people - from Jaycees to volunteers to paid workers - behind the scenes to ensure the public has a good time. And Conway spends part of each evening talking with visitors looking for ways he and the Jaycees can improve the event.

Most are pleased with this year's event. Conway points out there are 370 contestants taking part in the four days of rodeo including many of the top contenders in each category. Rodeo fans will have the opportunity to see world champions, past world champions, current leaders and even a few aspiring local cowboys and cowgirls.

Also the entertainers have drawn many fans. Despite the heat, ticket sales are brisk.

"If you love rodeo or even if you are coming out for first time. This year is really exciting," he said.

But Conway continued he is looking forward to the rodeo's end Saturday night when he hands over to next year's chairman the keys to the rodeo buildings, the phone that has kept him in contact with the media and the contractors and the radio that has buzzed constantly with information from Jaycees at work throughout the grounds. He plans to spend some time thanking those who have helped him as chairman Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday.

He might even impart a little final advice to those heading up the 2006 rodeo: "Don't take things so seriously, put a little fun in it. The time flies by so try to enjoy it."

As the job as chairman of the 53rd Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo winds down, Conway said it has given a new appreciation of those who have tackled it before him. He recalled the stories of when individual Jaycees had to put their own money on the line to ensure the show would go on.

"I'm proud to be a Jaycee and proud of the 53 years that the rodeo has been around," he said. "It is a lot of hard work and sweat that went on to make it what it is before I showed up. I hope to do it justice to all the people that went before me."