PHILLIPSBURG – For Kelly Forell, rodeoing in Phillipsburg is a family affair.
The barrel racer, a resident of Victoria, Kansas, is the wife of Guy Forell, a former bull rider who rode bulls at Kansas Biggest Rodeo. Kelly’s late father-in-law, Bud Forell, rode bareback horses and steer wrestled there in the 1950s through the 1980s. And Guy’s sister, Deb Forell Christy, also a barrel racer, has run barrels in Philipsburg for a dozen years or more.
For Kelly, marrying into the Forell family was not her first introduction to rodeo. She competed in gymkhanas, beginning when she was two years old. A student at Colby Community College, she began barrel racing in collegiate rodeo. Two years later, she was a student at Kansas State University, with a degree in animal science.
While in Colby, she caught the eye of the CCC rodeo coach, Guy Forell. The two dated, and married in 1991.
They moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., where the couple worked for the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). She was instrumental in helping switch the PRCA’s entry system for contestants entering rodeos from paper to computer, and helped with marketing as well.
In 1992, the couple moved to Alva, Okla., where Kelly obtained her CPA license and worked as an accountant. She owned her own firm for ten years. They raised three children: Cody, and twins Tyler and Bailey. The kids junior rodeoed, with daughter Bailey winning the 2014 National Little Britches barrel racing title.
Two years ago, Kelly had a bout with breast cancer. She had merged her accounting practice with another firm, and took off two months to fight the cancer. When she returned to work, her job had been eliminated. So she found a position as chief financial officer at High Plains Farm Credit in Hays, and she and Guy moved back to her hometown.
Now that her kids are grown, she is back to barrel racing. Three years ago, she bought a mare named Emmy and has seen some success with her, qualifying for the 2018 American Rodeo semi-finals.
She will be aboard Emmy when she runs in Phillipsburg on July 30. In addition to Phillipsburg, Forell will compete in Dodge City over the weekend. Guy, retired from riding bulls and now as president of Farmers Credit Union in Hays, is “my driver and stable boy,” she joked.
Forell will have another role in Phillipsburg this weekend: burger server for the barbecue hosted by High Plains Farm Credit. The barbecue, held July 30, is free to all ticket holders. As a Farm Credit employee, she volunteers her time with the organization.
In addition to competing in rodeo, she’s held other roles, like National Miss College Rodeo queen in 1989-90 and Miss Rodeo Kansas a year later. She has secretaried and timed rodeos, and helped with the office staff for the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA) in 2019.
And she’s working on horses for the next generation of Forells. Her daughter has requested that mom get three or four barrel horses ready for her, when she’s out of college. “I think that might be my next major project,” Kelly said.
She loves competing in Phillipsburg, as a part of the Forell family. “I’m proud to carry on the Forell family tradition. I’m honored to be able to compete there and continue to represent the family, even though I married into it.”
The 91st edition of Kansas Biggest Rodeo kicks off July 30 and runs through August 1, with performances nightly at 8 pm. Tickets are available online at www.KansasBiggestRodeo.com and at Heritage Insurance Group in Phillipsburg (685 Third Street.) For more information, visit the website or call 785.543.2448.