DENVER — Everyone knows about the people who wrangle the animals at the rodeo, but not many know the one who wrangles all the people.
"That's one way to put it," laughs Caroline Lukens, the Director of Rodeo Operations at the National Western Stock Show.
Lukens started riding horses when she was young, became a competitor in rodeo, and eventually began working in logistics and grain commodities.
But this job combines work with her passion.
"I think it's just deep in my heart," she said about directing rodeos. "I have a love for horses and the western way of life, and the community, and I don't know it's just part of my life."
Men still dominate the rodeo world as directors.
"There's a few of us," said Lukens, counting on one hand. "Rodeo Houston, San Antonio and Calgary."
For the National Western Stock Show, Lukens is the first woman to direct the rodeo.
2023 National Western Stock Show rodeo director
"You get a little nervous going into every single rodeo," she said. "You come in, there's a little bit of butterflies but I'm confident that we'll always make it happen, and gosh, we just have the best team here to truly make it happen."
Lukens makes a rodeo happen 29 times in 16 days during the National Western Stock Show.
This is her full-time job, and she prepares months in advance. In addition to the Stock Show rodeos, she directs Rodeo All-Star at the National Western Complex, and several private rodeos throughout the year.
"That's plenty to keep me busy," said Lukens.
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