"I started before last year's rodeo ended," said Lloyd Stoner II, general chairman for the 2004 Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo scheduled for Aug. 11-14.
"The Jaycees are working on the rodeo constantly, all year long, from one year to the next," Stoner said. "It's busy, and will only get busier. ... Right now we're in the process of cleaning the grounds up, getting them ready for the four days of rodeo."
Stoner said there is always plenty of "maintenance and upkeep" required for the rodeo grounds. "This is just stuff that has to be done ever year."
In addition to painting, fixing roofs, and just cleaning facilities up, Jaycees work hard to keep improving facilities at the rodeo grounds.
"In January we actually started on the fencing and chutes," Stoner said. "It really gets geared up about now, after Memorial Day. By the fourth of July, everybody is out there working on their different areas, different projects to help the rodeo happen."
Fans will be sure to notice this year's big improvement: new arena fencing. The old woven-wire fence is being replaced by steel continuous tube fencing purchased from Central Montana Panels in Lewistown, Mont. "The fence cost around $7,000," Stoner said. "It is safer for rodeo contestants and the patrons as well as more eye appealing than the old fence we had."
The new fence came painted gray. "Hopefully it will last several years," Stoner said of the paint job.
While this is not the first time the arena boundary has been replaced, this one will be "a more permanent fence - a stronger, safer fence," Stoner said.
Additional box seats have been added as part of the project. "We took down some posts," Stoner said, "added some more seats in the front boxes."
Pens are also being changed over from wood to steel, a project which the Jaycees started last year. "We foresee trying to replace all the wood with steel pens. This is an ongoing deal - we can't do it all at once," Stoner said. "We feel this is a lot safer for the animals along with everyone else."
Steel tubing is also being used for the loading chute between the stables and the bucking chute.
The steel tubing will also require less maintenance. Stoner said even the aluminum bleachers have proved to be a "major, major improvement over the old (wooden) bleachers - they don't rust, they don't rot, don't need to be painted."
Before changing to aluminum seating, Jaycees had to "jump up and down on every board" to make sure they were safe for patrons and hadn't been rotted out by the weather.
Jaycees have steadily been adding to and improving the facilities since moving to the present location in 1960.
"When we started it was just a piece of land - the Jaycees built everything that is out there," Stoner said. "We leased the grounds from the city until 1999 when we bought the grounds from the city."
The first Jaycee rodeos were held at VFW Park, beginning in 1953.
"That's where the original rodeo started 52 years ago," Stoner said. He said the rodeo got its start when Art Saunders approached the Jaycees with the idea to help raise money. "And of course it's blossomed from there."
While the chairman position is "a very rewarding experience," Stoner said, it requires a lot of personal time as well as sacrifices at work and home. "One time is enough."
But like previous chairmen, Stoner is happy to take his turn. "It's all for a good cause - to help the community," Stoner added. "It's all worthwhile."