For Randy Ruhter and his three brothers, few events throughout the year could top going to the Burwell Rodeo. As children growing up on a farm near Prosser, Ruhter and his brothers helped their parents to raise sheep and grow crops.
If there was time in the summer, they would take a trip to Burwell for what was touted as Nebraska's Largest Rodeo.
"Just going there and experiencing all of the events there that date back to our pioneer history on the plains here. That was a big deal to get to go to the rodeo," Ruhter said.
As a child, Ruhter loved to watch the bull riders but never considered actually trying the sport.
He and his brothers felt a special connection with the bareback and saddle bronc riders after breaking a few horses of their own at home.
"We had some nasty horses over the years, so it was always fun watching the professionals get thrown off," Ruhter said.
In adulthood, Ruhter became an auctioneer and eventually started Ruhter Auction and Realty where he worked with his brothers.
It was nearly 25 years ago when organizers with the newly revived Oregon Trail Rodeo approached Ruhter about having his business help sponsor the rodeo.
For the first few years, Ruhter served as a sponsor before he began volunteering and eventually became much more heavily involved in the rodeo.
Ruhter served on the Oregon Trail Rodeo Committee for several years before becoming a member of the Adams County Agricultural Society board.
He served two terms on the board and as president for more than five years.
One of the biggest things Ruhter was proud to be a part of during his time on the board was the purchase and installation of permanent rodeo equipment in the rodeo arena.
When he was first on the board, they would have to bring in everything from the fence posts for the fencing to the chutes.
"There was nothing there permanently. There wasn't one permanent fence post out there," Ruhter said. "So everything had to be built in about two days. And to contain that roughstock, you have to have pretty good fence. It was so work-intensive. "
After becoming chairman, Ruhter suggested they invest the money to purchase permanent equipment.
Today, the fairgrounds hosts not only the Oregon Trail Rodeo, but also the Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo and the Bobby Gottsch Jr. Memorial Hastings College Rodeo.
"We would never have been able to bring all those people in and do that without having the foresight to buy that equipment we put in there," Ruhter said. "It's a first-class place."
Ruhter retired from the ag society about eight years ago and has retired from the Adams County Fairfest and Oregon Trail Rodeo committees within the last few years.
"My view of a board is you serve your time and, at some point, you relinquish your hold on that so new ideas can come into play," he said.
Ruhter said when he left the ag society board, he planned to return in a couple of years. He changed his mind when he saw how the new board was thriving and realized the importance of new blood.
Ruhter said he's proud of the work he did with the rodeo and is glad he was able to be a part of it.
"It all started with really wanting to see rodeo thrive here in Hastings because those events, to me, are part of our history here on the plains," he said.
Today, Ruhter serves as a spectator at events like the Oregon Trail Rodeo, and he doesn't mind it one bit.
"It's fun to go now and not have any responsibilities," he said. "I sat there and minded my own business and enjoyed the rodeo."