Through the thrills and spills that come with mustering up stock contractors, cowboys, cowgirls and crowds, has been the grand ‘Duke’ of the Chiltern Rodeo committee.
Ask anyone who knows Kelvin Duke and they’ll tell you he’s been the glue that’s kept the event running for two decades.
And on Sunday a crowd of more than 250 people gathered at the racecourse to surprise this humble man with an honour befitting his years of service to the town and the sport.
Dignitaries including Benambra MP Bill Tilley and Indigo Shire mayor Jenny O’Connor officially unveiled the sign for the K. Duke arena.
Mr Duke, who has been battling a serious illness in recent months, was also presented with life membership to the rodeo committee and an engraved Eddie Fisher Ridetuff trophy belt buckle.
The plan had been kept hush-hush by the committee who organised an old rodeo friend from Tocumwal, Geoff Chamberlain, to deliver Mr Duke and his wife Sharon to the grounds for the 5pm ceremony.
Australian Professional Rodeo Association chairman Steve Bradshaw and Indi MP Cathy McGowan also acknowledged Mr Duke’s outstanding service in letters of support for the event.
Good mate and fellow committee member Michael Phibbs said Mr Duke deserved the recognition for his years of service to rodeo and the community.
“Kelvin is a very giving person; if anyone needs something done, he’s your man,” Mr Phibbs said.
“He’s raised thousands for the fire brigade, provided sound equipment for the local schools, car shows and guides – he will help anyone.”
Chiltern Rodeo committee treasurer Julie Disher said Mr Duke did all of the behind-the-scenes work without ever expecting accolades.
“He’s been the mainstay of the committee,” she said.
“It’s what he loves and I know he does it for the pleasure of seeing others enjoying the end product of all our work.”
Mr Phibbs recalled the first time the idea for a rodeo was floated in 1997.
“I didn’t know Kelvin – he had a horse stabled in a neighbour’s yard and we got talking one day,” he said.
“Three months later we had a rodeo up and running.
“We had the date set, the racecourse and stock contractor booked and then we formed a committee.”
Mr Duke has also been a huge supporter of young rodeo talent including Chiltern bull rider Tom Phibbs who suffered horrific facial injuries in 2016 when he was smashed in the face by a bull.
The former bareback bronc rider himself stood by the young Mr Phibbs during his gritty road to recovery and return to competition.