When it comes to the Hamel Rodeo, the Dykhoff family always knows where they’ll be on a Friday night in July.
For the past 35 years, Gerry and his late wife Rose, their kids, grand kids, and now great-grands, have manned the concession booth on the east side of the Corcoran Lions Park, for the Hamel Rodeo. It’s a tradition started by Gerry Dykhoff, who is 91 years old and still volunteering.
The Hamel Rodeo, produced with 100 percent volunteer help, uses various organizations for labor, and the east concessions stand is the responsibility of the Hamel American Legion and the Hamel Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Gerry, a Legion member, got his family started early. “My dad took responsibility for the volunteer labor on Friday nights,” said Tom Dykhoff, Gerry and Rose’s oldest son. “He drafted a lot of us to help. That’s pretty much been a tradition, going back to probably the second or third year of the rodeo.”
Gerry and Rose had nine children, of whom seven live in the area. Those seven kids, their spouses and significant others, their children and now grandchildren, all come to the rodeo on Friday night to cook hamburgers and brats, hand out water and pop, make sure the ketchup and mustard containers are full, and satisfy hungry bellies.
Dan Dykhoff, another of Gerry and Rose’s sons, calls himself one of the “grill kings.” He and his wife, Regina, and most of their five kids have all worked at the concessions stand, as has Tom, his wife Margaret, and their three children.
Everybody has a job to do. “We’ve been doing it long enough that everybody knows what their role is for the night,” Dan said. “Everybody knows what they’re doing, what to expect, and pretty much how it will go.”
The weather and number of fans can affect how sales and the work flow. “Even though there might be hiccups, you just get through it,” Dan said. “And at the end of the day, it’s a lot of fun.”
The grand kids, as they’ve gotten old enough, are able to help. They’re allowed to work when they are 15 or 16 years old, Tom said, but persuading them to help has never been a problem. “I don’t think we had to ask them to show up,” he said. “I think they pressured their moms to come.”
It’s a good time for the family, both Tom and Dan said. “There’s a lot of smiling and giggling and trash talking going on all night long, and that’s what makes it so special.”
Gerry set the bar high for his kids.
The nonagenarian has been called “Mr. Hamel,” said Dan. “He’s preached the whole community involvement thing as being an important facet of life, and he has lived that.”
A former carpenter and building inspector, Gerry has been involved “with everything,” Tom said. “He was a member of the Hamel Athletic Club, the Lion’s Club, the Legion, the VFW, the Knights of Columbus, and in church, in the choir and on the building committee. He set an example of volunteerism that has rubbed off on me,” he said. “I hope my example has rubbed off on my kids a little bit.”
Last year, about a dozen Dykhoffs volunteered at the Hamel Rodeo, Tom said, “including the ‘outlaws,’ (in-laws), the wives, and grand kids.”
They love doing it. “It’s just the atmosphere,” Dan said. “There’s this vibrant adrenaline rush, this tension going on. You’re back there, trying to keep the grill loaded with burgers, brats, onions, and taking care of who needs this or that.”
It’s the Dykhoff way.
This year’s Hamel Rodeo is July 11-14 at the Corcoran Lions Park. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. each night, with a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday, July 13. Tickets range in price from $16 to $20 for the evening performances; matinee tickets are $10 each for all ages. Tickets can be purchased online at www.HamelRodeo.org or at Farmers State Bank of Hamel.
For more information, visit the website at www.HamelRodeo.org or call 763.478.6611.
Ruth Nicolaus is a professional writer specializing in covering rodeos.