Hi-lo Rodeo Roundup: Vintage Amway, 1981

If you’re old enough, what do you remember about 1981? For me it was heavy on the tube socks, bell-bottoms and loud plaid shirts. Awkward.

That was the year that Sugar Ray Leonard flattened Thomas Hearns in the 14th round, Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in as the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and the movie “Chariots of Fire” swept to box office blockbuster status.


Amway Hilo Rodeo, 1981, Courtesy: Ambit

I admit, my memory is not THAT sharp. I got those factoids about ’81 from an old “Ambit” (Amway publication) article that my friend Pam in the Amway Archives dug up for me.

You know what else happened that year? The first-ever Amway Hi-lo Rodeo. An event so fleeting and rare that to date I had only heard whispers and rumors.

As a general rule, I like anything that starts with a poem, so without further ado, I give you Ambit Amway Hilo Rodeo #1, courtesy of Amway Archives, and ripped from the headlines of 1981:

“Now this rodeo, the folks all say/Was filled with hilos going every which way./They picked up pallets (they dropped them, too),/ And a winner was chosen when the five finalists were through.

There weren’t any broncos or clowns to play the fools,/Just tight-handling corners and important safety rules./And the head buckaroo, better than all the rest,/Turned out to be Doug Westfield-on hilos he’s the best.”


Also as a general rule, I like to post vintage photos of Amway events–especially when they showcase the sweet beards, mustaches, dresses, eyeglasses and huge cars of the ’70’s and ’80’s!

But what IS this Hilo rodeo you might be asking yourself? Allow me to fill in the blanks a little.

The rodeo was a chance to test the skills of Amway’s top drivers, and to put the spotlight on the importance of safety at the same time. It was a competition, of sorts, and these cowboys’ steel horse of choice: the fork-lift–or hilo–as we so affectionately call it in the Midwest.rpdep3

The rodeo tested the drivers on maneuverability, time and safety. These weren’t just any hilo cowboys, either. We’re talking about the best of the best. The pick of the prairie. The cream of the crop. The top guns, if you will.

The drivers competed against one another on courses set up in the warehouse, often maneuvering giant pallet-loads of cargo within inches of obstacles. The top runners up and the overall winner took home all kinds of crazy awesome prizes like TV’s, radios, and from the looks of it, ball caps and cowboy hats.

Now as far as we can tell, the hilo rodeo was held only in 1981 and 1982. After that it went the way of Butch and Sundance, the names of the rodeo division winners only whispered on the wind that blows tumbleweeds across the prairie: “Doug Westfield”….”Lloyd Algreen”….”Dave Cook.”  Hear that?

So if anyone asks you if you learned anything today, you can tell them “why yes, I did. I learned all about the great Amway Hilo Rodeo Roundups of  ’81 and ’82.”


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