From Oct. 20–22, 2022, members and family of the U.S. Armed Forces will compete in their annual PAFRA World Championship Rodeo in Topeka, Kansas.
Who: Members of the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association and their immediate family members. Members can be active duty and veterans.
What: A three-day championship rodeo featuring all the classic events (Team Roping, Breakaway Roping, Tie-Down Roping, Barrel Racing, Bareback Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Bull Riding, and Steer Wrestling) as well as Chute Dogging and Mounted Shooting.
When: Thursday Oct. 20 – Saturday Oct. 22, 2022
Where: Landon Arena at the Stormont Vail Events Center; Topeka, Kansas
How: If you can’t attend in person, each performance of the PAFRA World Championship Rodeo will be live broadcast on Cowboy Channel + at 6:00 p.m., local time.
“PAFRA was started in 2000, and it’s for active duty and retired military, veterans and spouses,” said Corby Kudron, PAFRA’s Team Roping Director.
Corby, a Missouri roper, had a 12-year career with the National Guard—he enlisted ahead of his senior year in high school, in the Desert Storm era—and has been involved in PAFRA for the last four years. His wife, Connie, also handles much of the PR and behind-the-scenes logistics for the championship event.
“This is my second year as team roping director and my wife’s second year in the role she’s in,” Corby explained.
The organization and the event is run entirely by volunteers, which means a lot of after-hours virtual meetings and work for the team.
“It’s fun,” Corby stated. “Really, it’s fun. It’s exhausting, but when it’s all said and done at the end on Saturday, it’s like, ‘that was so much fun and so worth it.’ To see the fruits of your labor is what’s really cool.”
For anyone who’s endeavored to pull off an event of any scale—much less one that draws contestants from all corners of the country—you know the reward of such labor. But for an event that’s held entirely in recognition of the men and women who serve, the fruit is even sweeter.
“It’s all just military family,” Corby continued. “Everybody’s brothers and sisters in the military. You can walk in there as a stranger and leave with 20 friends because you have something in common to start a conversation with anybody.”
Then, beyond the commonality of military ties, rodeo—and roping—has a way of leveling the playing field. If the goal is to catch, that’s the goal for a four-star general and a Naval plebe, alike.
“It’s been pretty interesting to meet people from all over,” Connie said. “To learn just how decorated they are as far as their awards, their accomplishments, their recognitions in the military. But then, you see that they have the same passion and drive for rodeo that you do, and everyone goes out and has a good time. It doesn’t matter what rank you are.”
It’s worth noting that children of members are also able to compete at the event, up until their 18th birthdays. The association does maintain circuits in which members can compete throughout the year, but the organization has moved away from the points system that used to determine entry into the annual World Championship Rodeo.
“Your qualification is that you have to be active or retired military,” Corby stated.
Also new, just this year, is that the event will be held in the Landon Arena at the Stormont Vail Events Center.
“We used to use the Domer Arena,” Connie explained, “which was just much small and would probably accommodate 1,200 people, max. And it’s still on the Stormont Vail property, but [the new arena] seats 6,500 people.”
“It’s actually the indoor hockey rink the minor league team plays in,” Corby added. “So it’s a huge upgrade. They’ve got the jumbotron, so it’s really cool because, for a lot of people, this is the one big rodeo event that they can do a year.”
For active military members, especially, the probability of being able to rodeo on the weekends is unlikely, even when they’re stateside.
“Some of these guys are taking a break,” Connie said. “They’re taking their leave from active duty to come participate in this rodeo. They’re taking time [away from seeing] their family to come and see this family, as far as PAFRA, and that speaks volumes about how much fun it is for them to get to do that. And they look forward to that every year.”