Historic gates to Nebraska's cowboy heritage are for sale.
For $500 — maybe more — a few fans of rodeo, the Sand Hills and western lore can purchase the old wooden chute gates from the arena at Nebraska's Big Rodeo in Burwell.
“They've seen a lot of history,” said Al Hitchcock, a rodeo committee member.
The rodeo committee is replacing the wooden bucking chutes and announcer's booth with new Priefert steel chutes and gates.
As many as 20 gates are for sale. Ten hung in the arena, and the others were on hand for quick replacement if broken by unruly bulls or broncs. The chutes are about seven feet high, nine feet long and made of 2x8 lumber.
“One or two get broke every year,” said Lee Jeffres, rodeo committee chairman.
Jeffres said the committee received about 50 inquiries from potential buyers since announcing the sale plan last week.
Hitchcock said the distinctive white gates with an upside-down red “V'' have nostalgic value to many people. Most potential buyers expressed sentimental reasons for their interest.
Some of professional rodeo's best competitors and champions have passed through Burwell. World champions such as bull rider Freckles Brown, saddle bronc rider Casey Tibbs and bareback rider Chris LeDoux have competed in Burwell and may have saddled up behind one of the wood gates being sold.
Those gates could end up hanging on office walls or in ranch house recreation rooms.
“If they write a check,” Hitchcock said, “I don't care what they do with it.”
If demand for the gates exceeds supply, they may be auctioned. The rodeo committee meets Wednesday night and then weekly next month to prepare for this year's July 29-31 rodeo. A decision on auctioning the gates won't be made until later, Jeffres said. To get on the list to purchase one, call the rodeo office at 308-346-5010.
Replacing the gates is part of a larger renovation of the rodeo arena. A new VIP seating area has been built above the chutes, putting sponsors and others closer to the action. A new announcer's booth and the steel chutes and gates are next.
About 180 cowboys will compete in bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding events at next month's competition. Dozens of other cowboys, including many of the nation's top ropers, will compete in timed events: steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing and steer roping. Other events include a Saturday parade in Burwell, chuck wagon races and wild horse races.
Nebraska's Big Rodeo has the only arena listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It includes 40 acres of grounds and facilities, a three-quarter mile track and the original covered grandstand made of lumber.
Only sharp-eyed sentimentalists will notice any difference in the chute gates next month. The new steel gates were constructed and painted to resemble the wood of the originals.
“The rodeo is Burwell's identity,” Jeffres said.
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