by | Mar 28, 2024 | Rodeo

[Photo: Cashae McGee]

The Rodeo Secretary serves as the heartbeat of a rodeo association, playing an indispensable role behind the scenes in organizing events and promoting the sport, ultimately contributing to the overall success of each rodeo. Their dedication and passion serve as a driving force in maintaining and advancing the association.

At the forefront of the association, rodeo secretaries foster connections with the rodeo community, guaranteeing smooth operations for all participants. The heart and soul of the North Dakota Rodeo Association (NDRA) is Michelle Rotenberger of Ludlow, South Dakota, carrying out responsibilities behind the scenes.

Rotenberger unlocks the gate, offering insights into her journey and enthusiasm while fulfilling her role as a rodeo secretary.

Rodeo has been an active component throughout your life, transitioning from being a competitor to a rodeo mom to assuming the role as a rodeo secretary. What led you to pursue the NDRA secretary position?

“Like many young couples with small children, we were searching for opportunities to supplement our income while allowing me to remain active on the ranch and be present for our little ones at home. I had tried a few other positions in town, but they didn’t quite fit.”

“When I received the position as the NDRA secretary, Teresa Jorgenson, the outgoing secretary, was amazing and became a great friend and mentor. Right from the start, this job felt like the perfect fit. They say that when you find a job you love, it never feels like work. I can attest to that – I truly love what I do.”

Rodeo secretaries are the backbone of rodeo events, playing a vital role in ensuring a smooth execution for officials and competitors. From the first entry taken to the last check written, what are the key responsibilities of a secretary from start to finish of a rodeo?

“A knowledge of all the moving parts from start to finish is a must. This encompasses not only the cowboys, but extends to contractors, committees, judges, timers, bull fighters, and pickup men. Organizational skills are crucial but, above all, possessing ample patience, interpersonal abilities, and problem-solving skills is a must. The success of the rodeo hinges on the collaboration efforts of all involved.”

For 16 years you have carried the title as NDRA Central Entry Secretary and 4 years as Executive Secretary, tucking away a wealth of knowledge. How has the role evolved over the years, particularly with advancements in technology and changes in the industry?

“The office paperwork has become easier by 10-fold. Initially, entries were recorded into an excel spreadsheet sorted by event with positions drawn with poker chips. Membership paperwork was all mailed in and manually processed. Results from rodeos wouldn’t be posted until the following Wednesday or Thursday.”

“Thanks to modern computer programs and online resources, taking entries and rodeo setup have become more efficient. The association has transitioned to nearly paperless with results posted within hours of each rodeo’s conclusion. Additionally, certain media platforms have played a significant role in spreading the word about upcoming events, membership drives, and overall general information.”

Rodeo athletes showcase a diverse range of colorful personalities, providing entertaining moments. Please share a highlight reel of a few memorable excuses, comments, etc…

“Oh dear, I could write a book. Not to stereotype, but each group of cowboys categorized by event have such unique personalities, tendencies, and quirks. Some are super organized, some not, some are all business, and others fly by the seat of their pants. They all give me great joy.”

“One Monday night as I was finishing up entries, I recalled thinking that I had not heard from a certain roughie. I remember saying, ‘Boy, I hope he didn’t get hurt last weekend; he never misses a rodeo.’ Come Tuesday night, this cowboy calls asking if I want to hear his story for missing entries. Long story short, he opted out of entering the upcoming weekend to spend time with his best gal, but when he called her to share the good news, she broke up with him. So, by Tuesday night, he figured he’d hit the rodeo after all, hoping Steve would be willing to bring a horse for him. This is only one of many highly entertaining stories.”

“I have to say the most unforgettable phone calls I receive are from cowboys informing me about fellow cowboys who are injured or ill. They simply want to keep me informed, knowing I would want to lend my support and add them to my prayers.” 

Before we close the gate on the interview, what is your favorite part about being a rodeo secretary, and what keeps you motivated in your role?

“All of it! The NDRA Board of Directors, cowboys, cowgirls, committees, sponsors, contractors, and rodeo personnel are all amazing. Even on the occasions when they drive me a bit crazy, which isn’t very often, there’s always a lesson learned either by them or myself from the encounter. The people I have met and have had the privilege to work with will forever hold a special place in my heart. My husband jokingly claims I have 500 friends who have my number on speed dial, and I can’t disagree. The NDRA is a class act rodeo association with exceptional individuals involved in every aspect. I am humbled and grateful to have been a part of this association for as long as I have.”

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