(photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Fourteen months of work will filter into one moment for Randy Tuttle Wednesday evening, as the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeos marks its 50th anniversary.
He recalls the moment from 2001 as co-chairman.
"It's Wednesday night at 7 o'clock when the grand entry starts and you are standing in the arena and see all the people mingling through, laughing, excited and talking about the entertainment or the cowboys performing. When you walk around and see that you are providing the quality entertainment that we are and how it affects the people, it is gratifying. It is worth the sleepless nights," said Tuttle.
With a full-house projected for Wednesday's opening of the 50th Annual Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo, it looks like those months of work, hundreds of phone calls and thousands of hours of planning have paid off for Tuttle, this year's rodeo chairman, and the other Jaycees. The 2002 rodeo may be one of the best in the group's history.
But it hasn't been easy, Tuttle willingly admits.
A member of the Sikeston Jaycees since 1994 and previously a part of the Poplar Bluff Jaycee Chapter, Tuttle has worked steadily to be a part of the rodeo that is the primary fund-raiser for the charities supported by the group. He has chaired numerous areas from the pens and chutes that house the animals to the grounds where it all takes place. Since 1997, Tuttle has filled a seat on the Jaycee Rodeo Board, which guides the annual event.
Chairman, Tuttle said, is a big role to fill. Looking for the "politically correct" way to term his job, he finally describes the job much like a CEO or maybe a ship's captain.
"Your job title really encompasses a little bit of everything," he said. "It is like a boat you have to keep floating in the right direction. Yes, there has been some rough water since we left, but it is still going in the right direction. There haven't been any major problems, sure we have run into a snag here and there, but no challenges we couldn't overcome.
"Of course, rodeo isn't over yet, knock on wood, we will have to wait and see."
It is a ride that began even before the 2001 rodeo ended.
Tuttle recalls it last summer as he worked with then-chairman, Shannon Garrett. Talk began on how to make the 50th annual Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo memorable.
After the 2001 rodeo, Tuttle had a brief lull then in October, he and his entertainment chairmen, Scott Balcer and Tim Jaynes, began researching entertainment. "That takes a long time, probably the longest of anything," Tuttle said.
Also this is a time to review contracts, ranging from sound and lighting to livestock. The 2002 chairman credits the foresight of his predecessors with negotiating long-term contracts, allowing him a few more nights of sleep.
As he worked with entertainers, their managers and their record companies he discovered there are some things the city slickers don't understand. "Hurry and return a message is not in their vocabulary," he said with a laugh.
Following a lull through December and January, the work began on securing other services. With the arrival of spring, the Jaycees head to the rodeo grounds. Facilities are cleaned and improvements made which this year included new signs and new equipment for the concession stands.
For Tuttle and the rest of the Jaycees, this means hours away from their families and time away from their 9-to-5 jobs.
"There is no way we can say how much we appreciate their support and backing to allow us the time to make an event such as this happen," said Tuttle, who is employed by Servpro, a professional cleaning company serving Scott and Cape Girardeau counties.
He grinned and added he hopes his fiancée will be equally understanding through the next four days as she has been through the last several months and will still marry him in December.
"It has been a fun year. I have learned a lot," said Tuttle. "Being in this position will make you more business-oriented because that is all that I'm doing -- running one great big business."
Hopefully it is one that will net the Jaycees a profit. Over the year's the rodeo's proceeds have been re-invested in the Bootheel, funding youth programs, benefiting the needy and providing for the elderly.
"Sure the Jaycees are out here having a good time, but in doing so we are all working to make this a better community not only for our families but everyone's family," said Tuttle.
And sometimes that family circle grows to include not only their own family and area residents but also those of the cowboys and cowgirls. Again this year the Jaycees will sponsor a golf tournament on the Saturday of rodeo with proceeds to benefit the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
As he waits for the lights to come up on the 50th Annual Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo Wednesday night, Tuttle will still be on his cell phone checking with his chairmen and double-checking with the managers of the four entertainers. But most of all he is waiting for Sunday, when the work comes to an end.
"I will be too tired to sleep," he predicted. "Probably I will just spend the time with my family and try and look back to see what all has happened in the last 14 months. The year has gone fast."