Four sisters make Whoopie Girls a family tradition

Wednesday , July 23, 2014 - 12:02 PM

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Whoopie Girl, Alexx Keetch, rides her seven-year-old horse "Cash" as she carries a sponsor's flag...

OGDEN – There are few things in life the Carter sisters of South Weber don’t do together.

Even when they get married, they stay close – moving across the street, a few houses down or at least somewhere with a view of home.

So it’s no surprise that out of 16 members of the Ogden Pioneer Days Whoopie Girls riders, four of them are Carters -- Karson Carter, Maddison Carter, Alexx Carter Keetch and Jayde Carter Talbot.

“They don’t leave each other,” said Allen Keetch, Alexx’s husband.

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“I don’t think you can get them any closer,” said Sever Talbot, who will marry Maddison Aug. 1.

Talbot said the only way he got Maddison to agree to live in South Ogden was the view of her childhood home from the back window.

Looking back, the Carter sisters have a hard time remembering when the Whoopie Girls tradition wasn’t a part of their lives.

And that’s understandable considering that when sister Alexx started with the initial introduction of the group in 2003, Karson was about the age of Alexx’s 5-year-old daughter.

“I just remember coming here every night,” said Maddison of those early days when the family tradition was first getting started with sister Alexx. “I about had the rodeo memorized.”

“She’s been here every night pretty much her whole life,” Alexx said of sister Maddison.

Each year since 2003 when the Whoopie Girls were organized, there has been a Carter sister in the group. With breaks for child birth, the four say this is the first year all four of them have ridden together.

The Whoopie Girls are official ambassadors of the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo.

They make public appearances throughout the month of July. And organizers believe their presence has added much to the celebration.

Their major function is to carry the many sponsor flags each night of the rodeo. But they have grown to be an integral part of the celebration itself.

According to the Ogden Pioneer Days website, the tradition of the once infamous “Whoopie Girl” began with the vision of then Ogden City Mayor Harmon W. Peery.

He wanted to create an iconic image that would help promote the Ogden Pioneer Days celebration so he arranged for a picture to be taken of Lorene Donaldson wearing a short skirt and halter top and twirling a rope after the fashion of a painting on the cover of Fun Film magazine painted by a popular artist of the times, Enoch Bolles.

And the popularity of Donaldson’s photo was widespread. Ogden officials received feedback from all over the world about Ogden’s original “Whoopie Girl” as the photo was printed in the press throughout the globe. Donaldson became recognized as the first Miss Rodeo Ogden.

And today, the popularity of the Whoopie Girls riders is just as vast among the youngsters who attend the rodeo.

Whoopie Girls coordinator Bev Clark said the riders are so sought out by their young fans that they have a hard time traveling the distance from one end of the arena to the other at the end of the night when they are supposed to be signing autographs near the main gate as fans leave the rodeo.

“Whoever is left on their horses at the end of the night can’t get down there,” Clark said. “They get bombarded. They get stopped. … To even make their way down there to sign autographs is tough.”

But the Carter sisters don’t talk like superstars.

Their explanation of what draws them to practices, a busy month of appearances and a commitment to each night of the rodeo is family support and fun.

“If you know how to ride, it’s not hard. It’s just fun,” said Maddison of the top speeds her horse obtains as he flies around the arena carrying her and her flag.

Karson said she has to work some late afternoons and she goes right to the rodeo from her work without any cares because she knows her sisters will back her up.

“I have to work Wednesday but I know that my horse will be here and be ready,” she said.

And no one is complaining about having to support one another.

“All of us getting together is fun,” Maddison said. “Going fast is what makes it fun. That’s why I love to do it.”

And the horses like the activity too, which is a break from their usual competitions of barrel racing and other events.

“They hear the music and they get all excited and hyped up,” Karson said.

“You don’t even have to push them to run hard,” Maddison said. “They just do it.”

Besides all the fun, the role of the Whoopie Girls is an important one.

“I think us carrying the flags helps the people who are coming to watch the rodeo realize how many sponsors it takes to do a rodeo,” Karson said.

And as they attend all events associated with the rodeo, the Whoopie Girls have become the mascots of the festivities, they said.

And none of their efforts feel like work at all, said the sisters.

“You get front row seats to all the rodeo,” Maddison said of sitting on her horse throughout the performances. “You warm up with all the good people and see them with their horses and stuff.”

You may reach JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at JaNaeFrancisSE. Like her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.

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