Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

June 21, 2023
A Cowboy’s Life

Jim Harrell, 2023 Bit N’ Spur’s Grand Marshal, lives his dream 

Bit N’ Spur longtime affiliate, Jim Harrell, has been chosen as the 2023 grand marshal for the 77th annual Bit N’ Spur Rodeo, which will take place in July.

As part of his duties as grand marshal, Jim will ride in Tooele City’s parade and ride in the grand entry of the rodeo, organized by his very own daughter.

“I have never seen a better and more patriotic grand entry than our rodeo,” Jim said.

Jim has been a member of the Bit N’ Spur Riding and Rodeo Association since the 1990s, but his love of horses began when he was just a child in Ohio.

“There were all kinds of westerns on TV,” Jim said, talking about his childhood. “There were a lot of kids that wanted to be a cowboy.”

“He grew up coming to a ranch in Wyoming that was owned by distant relatives, so he had a love affair with cowboys,” his wife, Sheri said. “When our kids were growing up, we were still coming out to the ranch and he would get to play cowboy. He got to build fences and go on cattle drives.”

The trips to Wyoming gave Jim a great desire to move west, which he kept in his heart for a long time.

Jim grew up playing sports and excelled at football. He played on Ohio State’s team as a running back and wide receiver.

During his time on the team, Jim was known as the “cowboy,” because he wore a cowboy hat and boots everywhere he went.

“He was the only cowboy in Ohio,” Sheri laughed.

He became interested in the Bit N’ Spur after moving to Tooele County from Ohio in 1995 for his job selling lumber for cabinet makers.

“I heard about a rodeo and it was a children’s rodeo,” Jim said. “I found out about the riding club and I said, ‘Man, I want to be part of that.’ I became involved with the Bit N’ Spur. I started riding with them. I thought it was interesting and unique that a club like that would put on a rodeo.”

After joining the Bit N’ Spur, Jim began competing with the club trail riding, egg racing, barrel racing, and in roping and team penning, which involves herding cows.

Although he was a member of the association, Jim never competed in rodeos. Both of his children, however, competed in rodeos all over the state, and their son competed nationally.

“Jim was so impressed with the sport of rodeo and how all of the contestants supported each other above and beyond,” Sheri said. “Any parent would have done anything to help our son win, even if that meant that he beat their son. They would share horses and push his calf in the shoot. It was just a really phenomenal experience… We all feel so strongly about the sport of rodeo.”

Now, Jim and Sheri’s grandchildren have a love of rodeo and also compete.

In 2001, Jim was elected as president of the Bit N’ Spur. Then, from 2002-2021, he took over as chairman of the rodeo.

“As chairman, I did almost everything,” he said. “I got most of the sponsors, got most of the volunteers, worked with the rodeo contractor, hired the announcer; I pretty much did everything.”

In 2011, Cindy Elton was elected as Jim’s co chair.

“From that point on, the rodeo just took off,” Jim said. “The rodeo became very big and we worked on it at least eight months a year.”

Even though he tried to retire, Jim will still be helping Cindy organize the rodeo this year.

“This year, I will manage the rodeo arena,” Jim said.

68-year-old Jim said the Bit N’ Spur and the rodeo have become like a family.

The biggest challenge of the Bit N’ Spur has been making sure that the rodeo makes money, Jim said.

“We want to make sure it runs smoothly,” he said. “We always worry about getting the most contestants we can, and also getting as many people into those stands as we can.”

Since retiring from his lumber job in 2021, Jim enjoys trail riding with his friends in the mountains, going on pack trips, camping, Dutch oven cooking, traveling, and spending time with his family.

Jim is still an avid Ohio State fan and watches their games. He also has three horses that he takes care of.

Jim enjoys the therapy horses bring.

“There’s an old saying that the outside of a horse is the best for the inside of a person,” he said

The Bit N’ Spur Rodeo will take place this year on July 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. at the Deseret Peak Complex.

The children’s rodeo will take place on July 1 at 5 p.m. along with the special needs rodeo prior at 11 a.m.

“We just started the special needs rodeo and it’s unbelievable how powerful it is,” Sheri said.

Events at the rodeo will include calf riding, barrel racing, roping, bull riding, break away, and steer wrestling, along with wild cow milking, and more.

“We work very hard on entertaining the crowd,” Jim said.

To purchase tickets, please visit Macey’s in Tooele or

Tickets for the main rodeo are $20 for adults and $10 for those six to 11. Those under six are free. Tickets to the children’s rodeo are $10 for adults and $5 for children six to 11. Tickets for the special needs rodeo are free.

The Bit N’ Spur Rodeo was started in 1945 by the Bit N’ Spur Riding Club, now known as the Bit N’ Spur Riding and Rodeo Association.

“Tooele County was very rural back then and the majority of people in Tooele City had horses,” Jim explained. “They decided to put the rodeo on, because it was just the thing to do.”

Tooele City’s Fourth of July parade was started by the Bit N’ Spur, also in the 1940’s. Later, Tooele City took over organizing the parade.

Prior to 1999, the rodeo was held at the rodeo grounds in Tooele City.

In ’99 it was moved to the Deseret Peak Complex. The rodeo was the first major event at the complex.

In 2000, committee members decided all past presidents mowing forward would be honored as a grand marshal.

Prior to being canceled in 2020, the rodeo was the longest running continuous rodeo in Utah.

Now, each year, over 6,000 people attend the Bit N’ Spur Rodeo.

Jim wants to thank all of the volunteers who have helped over the years.


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