Hastings, Nebraska, women volunteer time to cook for rodeo volunteers, cowboys and cowgirls
Hastings, Neb. – August 5, 2019 – For three days in August, Julie Ochsner and Twila Bankson turn into cowboy cooks.
During the Oregon Trail Rodeo in Hastings, Neb., the rural Adams County, Neb. women cook for several hundred people, providing meals for volunteers for the pro rodeo and the cowboys and cowgirls who compete at it.
And these meals aren’t instant.
The two women, both members of the Adams Co. Agricultural Society, make home-cooked meals, and have been doing it for years: Ochsner, for fifteen, and Bankson, for the last eight years.
The women plan year round, watching for sales so they can stay within a budget and checking out recipes that might work for large crowds. “It’s in my mind, year-round,” Bankson said, “when I see recipes, I think we should try this.”
In addition to sales, the women use the bounty from their own gardens and others’ donations. Bankson has chickens, so if eggs are plentiful, she donates them for deviled eggs, which are always a big hit, she said. She plants her garden so it is at its peak in late August, and the cucumbers, tomatoes, and other vegetables are fresh.
During each night of rodeo, August 23-24-25, the women cook for the rodeo volunteers and the cowboy and cowgirl competitors. On Sunday (August 25), the rodeo hosts a free barbecue for all ticket holders, and Ochsner and Bankson cook and shred the pork and prepare the sides for the barbecue.
Ochsner estimates they feed between 850 and 1,000 volunteers each year. They also volunteer to cook at the state high school finals rodeo, held at the fairgrounds in June.
They make meals that cowboys and cowgirls don’t normally get when they’re on the road. Beef and noodles with mashed potatoes are a favorite, as is the roast beef sandwich. Other favorites are cheesy potatoes, cheeseburger casserole, spaghetti bake, green beans, ham, and watermelon.
“We try to get as home-cooked as we can,” Ochsner said. “These cowboys are on the road all the time and they don’t get home-cooked meals.”
The hours are long, but it’s worth it, Ochsner said, when people thank her and Bankson. “It’s the gratitude we see in the eyes of the people we are serving food to.”
And it’s a way to show appreciation to the volunteers who help out, Ochsner said. “I feel like we need to treat our volunteers to the home-cooked meals because they put in a lot of work and effort. Why not do it?”
This year’s Oregon Trail Rodeo is August 23-25 and is held at the Adams County Fairgrounds (947 S. Baltimore, Hastings, Neb.)
The rodeo starts at 7 pm on August 23-24 and at 5 pm on August 25.Tickets start at $10 for adults and $5 for children and can be purchased online at http://www.AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com. For more information, visit the website or call the fair office at 402-462-3247.
– Oregon Trail Rodeo