Rodeo extraordinaire Mike Pribble was posthumously honored at noon Wednesday with a plaque at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center’s Equine Pavilion. The community gathered as Pribble’s daughter and granddaughter, Cathey Williams and Meredith Caddell, spoke at the event alongside their extended family.
“Our family is so elated. There are no words to describe how much everyone has done. I can’t believe it’s actually going to happen,” said Williams before the dedication. “I don’t think I have ever been a part of something so exciting and as moving as this process has been to memorialize daddy.”
More than 50 people attended the Pribble plaque unveiling. Hopkins County Regional Civic Center Manager Adam Teer opened the event by inviting Williams and Caddell to the front of the pavilion to speak.
Williams invited her family to the stage along with KSST radio host Enola Gay Mathews, Billy Wayne and Charles Helm.
“Enola Gay was the one who had the vision in 1990,” said Williams. “She knew that something had to be done and founded a chili cookout and worked so hard. She ended up going to the city, Civic Center and everyone she could trying to get something done for my daddy.”
Williams said Mathews talked to Helm, who is on the Civic Center board, and they began to work together to raise money and find a way to have the plaque displayed in the pavilion.
“I remember when Charles Helm came to the Chamber of Commerce one day and said, ‘Something has to be done for your dad,’” Williams said. “He went before the county commissioners and got it approved.”
Williams’ speech ended by talking briefly about her father and how he brought the first rodeo to Sulphur Springs. She said that although he came originally from Fort Worth, his hometown became Sulphur Springs.
She continued to say that Pribble began his career in Sulphur Springs at a young age. He purchased a horse at age nine and began practicing every day to become the best rider and roper he could be.
“Back in the 1930s, everything in Sulphur Springs happened in city park. Daddy wanted to hold a rodeo and got permission from the city. He held the event in the football stadium for the first two years,” said Williams.
One of Pribble’s signature tricks would be to stand on his head while roping eight galloping horses. He also would perform a Texas skip for 200 yards up and down the arena, vaulting stunts off the back and side of his horse, suicide drags and many different standing tricks. Eventually, he was recruited by Will Rogers for Western movies.
In 1938, Pribble built a large arena in Buford Park. Pribble soon became a public figure by performing tricks and fancy roping displays during his rodeos. For more than four decades he held a huge rodeo on Independence Day weekend, attracting 20,000 fans annually.
Pribble became a rodeo producer and director and local goodwill ambassador from 1911 to 1972. By 1954, Pribble upgraded his facility to be Texas' largest and finest all-steel, 6,000-seat arena.
The plaque unveiling ended with refreshments and dozens of photos temporarily displayed to commemorate Mike Pribble’s life.