- Neal Reid
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Each year when the rodeo world converges on Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the PRCA takes time to honor the best contract personnel members, people whose dedication to the sport often goes unrewarded. The South Point Hotel & Casino hosted this year's event on Nov. 29, and many of ProRodeo's best were lauded with praise and hardware.
This year's big winner was clown and barrelman Keith Isley, who took home three awards. Isley (Reidsville, N.C.) won the 2006 Coors Man in the Can award, Clown of the Year award and Dress Act of the Year award to complete the trifecta.
Isley, a highly respected PRCA veteran known for his colorful face paint, was overwhelmed by his trio of wins.
"It's unbelievable. I don't know what to say," said Isley, who took home $10,000 for the Coors Man in the Can award. "When I saw who was nominated for these awards, I picked out the winners, and it definitely was not me. Those other guys (nominees) are great entertainers and amazing performers. I'm just a small part of a large group of people who make things work."
Isley got the ballroom crowd laughing by including 15-time award winner Flint Rasmussen in his list of thanks for "not getting his card this year." He also joked about his shy, humble nature, saying, "It's hard for me to be here (on stage) right now without my makeup."
The wins were Isley's seventh, eighth and ninth career PRCA awards. He had already won two Specialty Act of the Year titles from 1999-2000 and two Dress Act of the Year (2001-02) and Comedy Act of the Year (2001, 2004) titles.
Stace Smith (Athens, Texas) won his third straight Stock Contractor of the Year award, topping ProRodeo Hall of Famer Harry Vold, Sammy Andrews, Bennie Beutler, Scotty Lovelace and Ike Sankey for the honor. Smith paid tribute to Vold in his acceptance remarks.
"This is a pretty big award for me," Smith said. "When you see your name listed with guys like Harry Vold, it's really something. I just hope I can be thought of the same way people think of Harry some day."
ProRodeo Hall of Fame announcer Bob Tallman won the Announcer of the Year award for the eighth time. This year's award came 24 years after Tallman was the first recipient of the honor in 1982.
Another ProRodeo Hall of Famer, 2006 inductee Mildred Farris, won her ninth Secretary of the Year award, while Joe Baumgartner was named Bullfighter of the Year for the third straight year. Troy Lerwill was named Comedy Act of the Year for the second straight year and fourth time in five years to round out the individual awards.
The 2006 Remuda Award recipients, stock contractor Bud Kerby and San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Executive Director Keith Martin, also received their bronzes on the special night. The Remuda Award, created by PRCA Board of Directors members Tom Reeves and Kelly Wardell, is given by the PRCA's roughstock Executive Committee members to a contractor and rodeo committee for providing the best pen of stock.
Rodeo committees were also rewarded for their hard work. The Small Rodeo of the Year award went to the Estes Park, Colo., committee, while the Deadwood, S.D., committee won Medium Rodeo of the Year for the third straight time. The Deadwood, S.D., event has also won four Small Outdoor Rodeo of the Year awards (1998-2001).
The Large Indoor Rodeo of the Year award went to Martin's San Antonio committee, and Martin dedicated the award to all of the PRCA's rodeo committees. The Cheyenne, Wyo., committee was named Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year for the third straight year and eighth time overall.
The 2006 AQHA/PRCA Horses of the Year awards were also highlighted, along with the PRCA Stock of the Year recipients. An emotional Jim Korkow accepted a bronze in honor of his late horse Slippery, who passed away due to a mysterious illness just months after being named the Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year. The crowd gave Korkow and the horse a standing ovation, and emcee Boyd Polhamus joined Korkow by having to fight back tears during the bittersweet moment.
The PRCA Media Department handed out its annual media awards, with James Fain winning for photo journalism, America's Horse magazine (Becky Newell) for print journalism and Butch Thurman for broadcast journalism. Committeeman Lee Graves (Kaycee, Wyo.) was also recognized as the 2006 John Justin Spirit of the West Award winner.