COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A lifetime of commitment to the rodeo industry has resulted in husband and wife, Jim and Julie Sutton, being named the recipients of the 2017 PRCA Donita Barnes Contract Personnel Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jim is the patriarch of Sutton Rodeo, and he and Julie have a six-generation family operation still running strong. Sutton Rodeo is based in Onida, S.D. Jim and Julie have been married for 64 years.
“This is terrific to be recognized for an award like this at this stage of the game,” Jim said. “The best part of the whole thing is our whole family is involved in our farming and ranch operation.”
“We’ve been doing this since we got married and it has been a long time, but it has been a great adventure,” she said. “I was completely surprised when I found out we received this honor, and it is very exciting to get the honor.”
The Suttons will be recognized for receiving the Donita Barnes Lifetime Achievement Award at 6 p.m. (PT), Dec. 6 during the PRCA Awards Banquet at the South Point Grand Ballroom in Las Vegas.
The award was created to recognize PRCA members who have dedicated their lives to the rodeo industry for their commitment, work and contributions. Any active member of the PRCA may nominate eligible contract personnel members for the award.
Nominees must have been a PRCA member for a minimum of 15 years and cannot have won a yearly contract personnel award within 15 years of the date of nomination.
All nominations were reviewed and selected by an external panel. The top five nominees were voted on by any contract personnel members who have participated in at least one rodeo within that rodeo year.
Other winners of the Donita Barnes Lifetime Achievement Award are: Donita Barnes (2011); Art and Linda Alsbaugh (2012); Fred and Norma Dorenkamp (2013); Quail Dobbs (2014); Cotton Rosser (2015) and Karen Vold (2016).
Sutton Rodeo has had three PRCA Horse of the Year awards: saddle bronc horse Deep Water in 1979, bareback horse Big Bud in 1985 and saddle bronc horse, “Chuckulator” in 2012. Chuckulator also was the top saddle bronc horse of the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Sutton Rodeo stock has been selected to perform at 56 of the 58 National Finals Rodeos.
“We really look forward to the National Finals every year and are proud to be associated with it,” Jim said.
Jim and Julie took the company to the next level with a focus on production and innovation. Jim began the Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo in 1978, a rodeo nominated 15 times for PRCA Indoor Rodeo of the Year, winning the award in 2002-03. Jim originated the Wrangler Bullfights and the Bailey Bail-Off. He is famous for his pageantry and colorful rodeo openings, including the openings at the NFR in 1995-96. Jim has been nominated four times as Stock Contractor of the Year.
Julie, an experienced rodeo secretary and NFR timer, is in charge of publicity and advance promotion. The Suttons’ daughter-in-law, Kim, and granddaughter, Amy Muller, are timers at this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER, Dec. 7-16. Julie was a timer at the 1970 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Jim’s son, Steve, is co-owner of Sutton Rodeo and was an NFR pickup man in three decades (1978, 1981, 1986, 1993 and 1995).
The roots of the Suttons being involved in the rodeo business can be traced to 1926 when the Edwin Sutton family – Edwin was Jim’s grandfather – began producing rodeos on the home ranch in Sully County, S.D.
James H. Sutton Sr. took Sutton rodeo to the next stage in the 1950s when he entered into a partnership with Erv Korkow. As one of the first members of the Rodeo Cowboys Association, Sutton/Korkow stock performed at the first National Finals Rodeo at Dallas, Texas, in 1959.
James was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1982.
In 1968, James (Jim) Sutton Jr. became a partner with his dad, forming Sutton Rodeo Company.
“My grandad (Edwin) had the first rodeos, and it has been a way of life for us and it is something we enjoy,” Jim said. “I did play a lot of basketball (growing up). When I graduated from college (South Dakota State in Brookings in 1957), I was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers. I went to camp and about the time the camp finished, we had our annual horse sale at the ranch (in October) and I knew all along where I was going to end up, so I never went back (to the Lakers’ camp), but I didn’t get cut from the Lakers. I had a real good tryout. Plus, back then, they weren’t getting paid like they are now.”
Sutton was the first South Dakota State player drafted into the NBA, going to the Minneapolis Lakers in the ninth round, the 65th pick overall in the 1957 NBA Draft.