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9:54 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

19 days and counting...

The rodeo kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 29, inside the grounds' arena and continues through 3 p.m. on July 4, with the last of eight performances.

The rodeo kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 29, inside the grounds' arena and continues through 3 p.m. on July 4, with the last of eight performances.

PRESCOTT - The countdown to the Prescott Frontier Days rodeo has reached a fever pitch.

For volunteer work crews prepping the grounds off Rodeo Drive, the major push has arrived, with just 19 days remaining until the first performance of the "World's Oldest Rodeo."

The rodeo kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 29, inside the grounds' arena and continues through 3 p.m. on July 4, with the last of eight performances.

Ron Weyenberg, a volunteer director and engineer who has worked in facilities management and maintenance at the Rodeo Grounds since 1999, performs electrical and plumbing repairs. This year, he said, crews initiated their countdown to the rodeo on May 1, which gives them almost two months to complete the job.

Volunteer directors schedule workdays every Saturday leading up to the rodeo, inviting anyone from the public who is interested in the event and its history to assist with minor repairs, setting up chairs, painting, mowing and weed-eating.

"Some will come and work maybe two or three hours; some will come and work 12 hours," Weyenberg said Saturday during a brief break under the grandstands.

This spring, crews recoated the front half of the grandstands' north roof with silver paint to cover up rust stains. The downward-sloping part of the roof now shimmers in the sun and is clearly visible to those coming into the grounds from Fair Street.

"Maybe next year we'll do the back half," said Weyenberg, adding that volunteers eventually plan to recoat the roof a tan color and paint "Prescott Frontier Days - Since 1888" in large, dark brown letters across the top.

Crews also have torn down the dilapidated announcer's booth atop the metal roof's east end. A smaller one on the west side remains.

This past year, the rodeo spent $85,000 - mostly from sponsor revenues - for electrical system improvements on the grounds to raise standards for visitors and vendors alike.

"We have RV hookups, which includes sewer, 20- and 50-amp electrical for each RV and vendor that comes in," Weyenberg said.

In the next several years, Weyenberg added, the rodeo plans to install boxed seats on the opposite side of the grandstands and expand the capacity of the arena, which presently holds 3,500.

During the coming year, however, organizers plan to redo all of the electrical work in the grandstands and some of the adjacent buildings on the grounds.

"This year we're trying to keep it pretty simple, actually," Prescott Frontier Days General Manager J.C. Trujillo said. "We've talked about putting in a skybox at the east end of the arena. What I would really like to see is to put in some covered bleachers behind the (bucking) chutes and move the announcer's stand forward."

Irene Winter, an organizer of the annual "Happy Hearts Rodeo for Exceptional Children" June 29 at the grounds, is the Frontier Days Rodeo's meeting hostess. She specializes in hospitality.

For the past 25 years Winter, now a volunteer director, has helped out at the rodeo, which includes 199 memberships and 600 additional volunteers.

In the rodeo's off-season, from September through May 1, volunteers conduct general meetings once a month to coordinate duties. By May, directors congregate once per week to prepare for the rodeo. In June, both members and directors meet weekly to finalize matters.

"We as directors are just like any other job - we're guiders for the people under us," Winter said. "We try to guide them to get the best we can out of them, and they all do a wonderful job."

To volunteer, call the rodeo office at 445-4320. Weyenberg said Prescott Frontier Days is actively seeking the services of retired business

professionals.

"We would like some of these retired businesspeople and executives (in the community) to come give us a hand," he said. "We're now competing with the big boys (of pro rodeo), so we need that business expertise - how to make a city come together as a team."

For tickets and information about the rodeo, call either the office or the toll-free line at 866-407-6336, or log on to the Internet at www.worldsoldestrodeo.com.

The Prescott Frontier Days ticket office, 828 Rodeo Drive, is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact the reporter at dcook@prescottaz.com