We are proud to announce the induction of Candy Bell into the IGRA Hall of Fame in 2006. When informed of her selection, Candy replied, "I am honored to be selected for the Hall of Fame. During my 10 years of rodeo, I met a lot of very interesting and special people. It is true that rodeo is one big family. I competed in both IGRA and PWRA and the IGRA family was always helpful and supportive to everyone. It was an experience that I will never forget. Plus I have made several life time friends."
Candy grew up in the small community of Boulder, Montana and participated in 4-H as a youngster. She remembers competing in barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying at the 4-H rodeos. Following high school, she received a Bachelor's degree in Occupational Safety and Health and willingly admits that doesn't quite fit with riding bulls, steers and broncs.
In 1985 Candy moved to Arizona. Her grandmother was a "snow bird" and the thought of escaping those Montana winters was very appealing. It didn't take her long to find the rodeo family. When AGRA held its second rodeo in 1987, Candy attended the dance and thus began many years of involvement. The next couple of years she was a spectator and video taped friends from the stands. She then helped Jodi Hines with her craft booth in the vendor area until she began competing in 1991.
At the first rodeo she competed in steer decorating, wild drag, goat dressing and won her first buckle in steer riding. Candy attempted barrel racing in Tucson one year and says friends still chuckle about her horse doing the pattern backward. The first time she rode bulls was November of 1991 in Dallas. Candy says her most memorable bull ride came after her dear friend, Bret Bateman, passed away. Bret was a fellow rough stock contestant and had been her buddy in the chutes. For this ride, Candy drew "Partner", Bret's favorite bull from Clarence Bates' stock, and the rodeo clown/bullfighter, David Pizzuti, sprinkled some of Bret's ashes on the bull. Candy had an amazing ride that scored 78 points and earned her the championship buckle.
Candy also competed in PWRA rodeos and had the opportunity to meet Jan "Granny" Youren, a world champion and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame rough stock rider. Candy met her at a PWRA rodeo in Ogden, Utah and was invited to her home in Idaho, where "Granny" put her on a bronc for the first time and taught her how to ride bareback.
Everyone agrees that riding bulls, broncs and steers is dangerous and Candy believes she was fortunate when it came to injuries. She had her share of bumps, bruises, cracked ribs and stitches but her only serious injury came at a PWRA rodeo in Tyler, Texas, when a bull stepped on her and caused bruising of her heart muscle. Once she recovered, Candy returned to competition and readily admits to being an adrenaline junkie.
Candy participated in rodeos for 10 years and won over 100 buckles, including 13 international championships. She finished her competitive career in 2001 in the same way she had started, by winning the steer riding buckle at the Phoenix rodeo. In summing up her rodeo experience, Candy said, "People are closer behind the chutes because they don't want to see anyone get hurt. Lots of people have helped me and I am grateful for the volunteers in the arena and behind the chutes that help keep the contestants safe. There is an amazing diversity of people in IGRA and I have met some really special people. They become a second family and like a typical family, there are times when you may be discouraged by their actions, but you still love them." Her advice to contestants is to always return borrowed equipment to its rightful owner in as good condition as you received it and offer to help whenever possible. For Candy, rodeo has never been about whether you win or lose, but about how much fun you have. She says, "If you're not having fun, don't do it."
After working 19 years as the environmental-quality specialist for the Gila River Reservation, in 2006 Candy decided it was time to move closer to her family. So she loaded up her four horses, four cats, two goats and dog along with her belongings and moved back to Montana. The move went well, but winter is a lot different there than it is in Arizona. It seems the goats were having the hardest time adjusting, so she had to build a "goat house" for them. Candy hopes to come back to Phoenix now and then to visit. Her home there is rented out and when she needs to check up on things, perhaps she could schedule it to coincide with the Phoenix rodeos. She also says Calgary isn't that far away from her new home, but if she attends you might not find her in the stands. After years of involvement, being a spectator is hard to do, so look for her behind the chutes, helping contestants stay calm, focused and safe.