OGDEN — To say Gena Black is a Pioneer Days lifer would be a understatement.
In some form or fashion, Black has been involved in the yearly Weber County tradition since 1981 — a good year for Black, as she took home first place crowns in both the Miss Rodeo Ogden and Miss Rodeo Utah competitions.
The Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo debuted in 1934. So, of the 85 rodeos held in Ogden, Black has been involved in 38 — almost half of them.
Both she and her husband Glen Black participated in Ogden Pioneer Days as contestants. She was a barrel racer in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and he was a steer wrestler in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The couple’s son, Chase Black is participating in this year’s rodeo as a steer wrestler, with Glen serving as his hazer. Like her mother, the Blacks’ daughter, Cassidy Black Richins, was Miss Rodeo Ogden in 2015 and Miss Rodeo Utah in 2016.
Nowadays, Black volunteers on the Pioneer Days Committee and works as the rodeo’s hospitality director.
“I like to say I’m the hostess with the most-ess,” Black says.
Craig Bielik, Pioneer Days advertising director, said the hospitality outfit serves an average of 600 dinners per night at the rodeo’s VIP tent. This year’s menu in the tent includes food from Prairie Schooner, Javier’s, Bella’s, Costa Vida and Texas Roadhouse. Black has been doing rodeo hospitality for 15 years now and has built a team of approximately 30 volunteers.
“We’re all working hard, making sure everyone is having a good time and enjoying themselves,” Black said. “It’s a lot of work.”
But while Weber County area Very Important People are tended to by Black and her crew, perhaps the most important part of the operation takes place somewhat behind the scenes.
Black and her team are also responsible for taking care of the rodeo’s cowboys and cowgirls — the actual participants who draw hordes of people to the Ogden Pioneer Stadium every year. The hospitality team feeds the cowboys and cowgirls and their families daily. They bring in students from Ogden’s Paul Mitchell beauty school to provide haircuts. The team also provides showers and massages for those rodeo guys and gals who spend a big chunk of their year on the road.
“A lot of these cowboys and cowgirls, they’re young and they’re just on the road going from town-to-town,” Bielik said. “Some of these cowboys haven’t seen a barber in about 10 months.”
Black said some rodeo participants have sponsors that help fund the adventure, but many don’t.
“A lot of them have to pay their own entry fees and their gas,” she said. “There are a lot of part-timers who have regular jobs, but on the weekends they’re rodeoing. A lot of them stay in trailers. It’s pretty tough.”
Ogden’s Pioneer Days Rodeo draws more than 30,000 spectators annually and has been recognized as one of the Top five PRCA Rodeos in the nation. In 2017 it was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
Black’s outfit likely has something to do with all success, especially the top five PRCA ranking, which is voted on by cowboys.
“We want the cowboys and cowgirls to know how excited we are to have them here,” Black said. “We do our best to show them that.”