GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT: Helena couple to be awarded Spirit of the West award |

GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT: Helena couple to be awarded Spirit of the West award

Helena, Mont. – July 27, 2022 – When Jim and Ami Matlock take vacations from their jobs, they don’t get very far out of town.

That’s because the Helena couple hooks up their camper and travels to the Last Chance Stampede and Fair, where they spend their time off volunteering.

And this year, they are being honored with the Spirit of the West Award, given annually in recognition of someone who has, behind the scenes, made substantial contributions to the success of the Stampede and Fair.

Ami’s involvement with the Stampede and Fair began when she was a kid, entering baked goods and a quilt she had made as an exhibit.

Twenty years ago, she began helping with the event as organizer of the kiddie parade. It soon morphed into sponsorships, and later, the hiring and coordinating of the free stage entertainment.

As sponsorship volunteer, Ami contacts potential and returning sponsors and secures their partnership. She organizes sponsors’ logos for banners, flags and the video screen and makes sure the sponsors get the benefits they were promised.

Bringing in sponsor dollars is a big part of the Stampede and Fair, said Mike Gurnett, chairman of the rodeo committee. Sponsors pay for a portion of the rodeo and fair’s costs, which keeps ticket prices low. “If we didn’t have that kind of grassroots support from Ami through the phenomenal sponsors, the rodeo (and concert) tickets would be more costly.”

Husband Jim started volunteering about fifteen years ago, after Ami asked if he’d like to.

His main job is to transport music acts and their personnel wherever they may need to go while they’re in Helena. The singers’ buses are too unwieldy to drive through town, so Jim is there with a van to transport the road manager, stage crew, musicians, and the stars themselves to and from hotels. He’s also there to run errands for the stage crews, to grocery and hardware stores.

Jim and Ami Matlock are the 2022 recipients of the Spirit of the West Award, given annually to someone who has made a substantial contribution to the success of the Stampede and Fair. Courtesy photo

Mechanically minded, Jim helps wherever he is needed: setting up stages for the Night Show and in the Exhibit Hall, putting out signs, and doing whatever needs done.

“He is the guy who, on the spur of the moment, will do anything to make sure the Stampede is a success,” Gurnett said. “If something needs to be fixed, or something needs to be dropped off or picked up, he takes care of it.”

The couple’s son, Cody, spent his teenage years at the Lewis and Clark Co. Fairgrounds, tagging along with his parents. For a few years, Cody was the “ice guy:” if ice was needed for the hospitality room or a vendor, he was the one they sought out to get it.

The couple is humble and unassuming and deflects the praise they are getting from the award.

“I just do the work because it’s something I want to do,” Ami said.

Gurnett said the Matlocks, along with the other event volunteers, are crucial to the success of the Stampede and Fair.

“They are people who are willing to give of their time, and no one even knows they’re doing it,” he said. “If you attend the Stampede and Fair and you look around, you may not realize this work just doesn’t automatically happen. There are volunteers like Jim and Ami who dothis work and play a big role in making the event happen.”

The Matlocks “believe in the support of the community.”

The Spirit of the West Award will be presented to the Matlocks during the July 30 night of the rodeo.

This year’s Last Chance Stampede and Fair takes place July 27-30. The night show, featuring Randy Houser and Jimmie Allen, is Wednesday, July 27 starting at 6:30 pm. Three nights of rodeo (July 28-30) follow. Rodeo performances start at 7:30 pm nightly.

Tickets can be purchased online at and at the fairgrounds ticket office during business hours.

For more information, visit the website or call 406.457.8516.

–Last Chance Stampede

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