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FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021 – FRITZ BREWER

RODEO PROFILE

OKEECHOBEE’S FRITZ BREWER

AN ALL-AROUND RODEO MAN

 

Written by: Kathy Ann Gregg

Brewer at the 2020 Pete Clemons Memorial Ranch Rodeo at the Okeechobee Cattlemen's Arena - Photo by Kathy Ann Gregg

There is one person in Okeechobee, Florida, who has been involved in the world of rodeo for the past 64 years. That person is Fritz Brewer.

Brewer started out in 1956 at age 16 as a contestant in the events of bareback riding and steer wrestling. At that time, it was the Florida Cowboys Association that held the professional rodeos. He competed with the rodeo greats of that time—Pete Clemons of Okeechobee, Matt Condo of Arcadia, and Josiah Johns of the Seminole Tribe. In fact, the photograph that Brewer is most fond of shows him in the steer wrestling event with Johns as his hazer.

It was some time in the late 1970s when Brewer qualified to compete in the Florida Cowboys Association Finals, as a bulldogger. Later, as his pro-rodeo career was winding down, he decided to keep his hand in the sport by becoming a rodeo judge.

Brewer had already been judging amateur rodeos and Florida high school rodeos when he decided to apply to become a pro-rodeo judge in 1995. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association was in existence by then and he signed up for one of its judge training seminars.

“This seminar really opened my eyes,” Brewer notes. “Their rulebook is really big and covers every possible situation a judge can be faced with at a rodeo.

“This seminar really opened my eyes,” Brewer notes. “Their rulebook is really big and covers every possible situation a judge can be faced with at a rodeo.           

“And if you know the rules, you are ahead of the game,” he explains. “Not only will you make the right call, but if the competitor wants to contest your call, you can quote the rule that will back you up.” Most contestants know how to do their event, but they generally do not know the intricacies of the rules.

BREWER COMPETED WITH rodeo greats Pete Clemons of Okeechobee, Matt Condo of Arcadia, and Josiah Johns of the Seminole Tribe. 

The photo he’s most fond of shows him in the steer wrestling event with Johns as his hazer.

Fritz Brewer's favorite photo is of him steer wrestling in Okeechobee's 1972 Labor Day Rodeo. Later, as his pro-rodeo career was winding down, he decided to keep his hand in the sport by becoming a rodeo judge. - Photo courtesy of Fritz Brewer

Professional rodeo judges are required to attend a training seminar every other year, as well as complete exams regularly. At press time, Brewer was finishing up one of those exams.

At least a month in advance, professional rodeo judges apply for the rodeos they want. Then the head of the Judging Program, a position presently held by Chris Horton, makes the assignments.

For example, by Sept. 1 of every year, Brewer applies to judge the Fall Arcadia Rodeo that is held in October. It’s a rodeo that he particularly enjoys judging. Brewer has also been a regular judge at the Peace River Pro-Rodeo, which takes place annually in January in Wauchula.       

His day-to-day job? Brewer is a cattleman, running a cow/calf operation in Okeechobee with some 300 head of brood cows. He has been a longtime member of the Okeechobee County Cattlemen’s Association, holding the position of vice president for five years, president for two years, and has been a member of the board of directors for a number of years.

And Brewer has been chairman of the Rodeo Committee for as long as he can remember. As such, he puts on the annual spring PRCA Cowtown Rodeo, the annual ranch rodeo—now named the Pete Clemons Memorial Ranch Rodeo in honor of his old rodeo friend—and other bronc and bull riding events. He has been the head judge at the Florida Cattlemen’s Association Ranch Rodeo Finals since its inception, and has judged other county ranch rodeo qualifiers.

Brewer is a family man, married to his wife, Sharon, for 53 years. They have six daughters and three sons, 16 grandkids and six great-grandchildren. Various members of his family are part of rodeo, too. Grandson Nat Stratton and grandson-in-law James Greeson are both PRCA saddlebronc riders.

His fellow judges are awed by Brewer doing what he does at his age—and that includes jumping up on railings to avoid angry bucking bulls or fast-moving broncs.

Top left, Brewer shows how close judges get to roughstock animals. Right, judging from horse- back at the 2020 Fall Arcadia Rodeo. Below is his family at a recent get-together. In front: Becky Stratton and Lee Ann White. Standing: Joe ("Skeeter"), Clay, Bobby, Kim Ellerbee, Sharon and Fritz, Missy Colbath and Jerri Lynn Hill. Not present is daughter Melanie Smith. - Photo courtesy of Fritz Brewer