WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Growing up, Wacey Dorenkamp only made it to two of his own Little League games in his hometown of Bristol, Colorado. His schedule was busier than most his age.
“Since I was a little kid, I’ve been on the road,” said Dorenkamp, the third generation of his family to rodeo. He recalls ‘growing up’ in the back of a 2004 Dodge pickup truck that he takes on the road with him today.
Rodeo is a rich family tradition for a couple of big names making their way through Pretty Prairie for Kansas’ Largest Night Rodeo.
“To me, it was just much more interesting than sitting around a baseball field,” said Dorenkamp. “Even as a little kid, I always felt like I was just one of them.”
Dusta Kimzey-O’Connell attended her first National Finals of Rodeo (NFR), the ‘Super Bowl of rodeo,’ when she was just three years old with her father, Ted Kimzey. Ted is a 17-time Wrangler bullfighter barrel man at the NFR.
“I was basically raised in the rodeo arena,” Kimsey-O’Connell said.
Now, Dorenkamp and Kimzey-O’Connell are paving their own way in the sport.
“I have to tell myself, ‘you have a pretty big family name behind you, and you have to live up to it and start making your own,'” said Dorenkamp, a decorated steer wrestler who jumped his first steer when he was 14.
Kimzey-O’Connell’s first memories of rodeo life include being in the spotlight at a young age with her father: “I got to be in some of my dad’s rodeo clown acts as a kid, which is probably where I grew so fond of performing and being the center of attention — that was fun.”
Kimzey-O’Connell’s two younger brothers have also been involved with the rodeo arena: “Sage is a 6-time world champion bull rider, and Trey has made the NFR, as well,” she said.
Kimzey-O’Connell, the cowgirl from the small town of Strong City, Oklahoma, is a trick rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and also competes at professional rodeos as a barrel racer.
“Even board games at our house are throw downs,” said Kimzey-O’Connell. “We really are a driven family, and we’re not here for second.”
Life on the road isn’t easy, but the camaraderie in the rodeo community makes it all worth it.
“It really doesn’t matter where you’re from, how far apart, how many miles — we all get together, and it’s just like we’ve been together the whole time,” said Kimzey-O’Connell.
No matter where their journey continues, a trip to Pretty Prairie will always be circled on the calendar for Dorenkamp and Kimzey-O’Connell.
“We have a lot of family history here, my grandpa owned a rodeo company, and they would supply stock to this rodeo for decades,” Dorenkamp said. “After that, my dad, the youngest of eight, and all of his brothers entered this rodeo, and this was the first rodeo I ever entered when I got my permit — it’s great to be back here.”
“It’s nice to have a home away from home when you’re on the road,” said Kimzey-O’Connell. “It’s me, three horses and two dogs, so it’s nice to get to pull in somewhere, I know I’m going to see some friendly faces.”
Kimzey-O’Connell said that being in Pretty Prairie reminds her of the small Oklahoma town she grew up in. “It’s really fun to come to these small communities that come together to make these rodeos happen for us contestants,” she said.