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Saddling up in Sikeston
Sikeston is a cowboy lover's paradise this time of year when the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo comes to town.
This is the 52nd year for the rodeo, which, according to rodeo chairman Lloyd Stoner, brings fans of bucking broncos and steer roping from all over the Bootheel and beyond.
According to Stoner, about 40,000 visitors are expected to attend the rodeo today through Saturday. There are 366 contestants in seven events: bareback riding, bull riding, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing.
"We've got some really good contestants this year," Stoner said. "The contestants that are at our rodeo are at the top of their game."
Those contestants include world champion saddle bronc rider Dan Mortensen, world champion tie-down roper Cody Ohl, world class steer wrestler Teddy Johnson and world champion calf-roper Fred Whitfield.
"We've got 15 of the top 20 saddle bronc riders at our rodeo, six of the top 10 bareback riders, eight of the top 10 bull riders. We've got a heck of a lineup of contestants," Stoner said.
By the rodeo's end, more than $100,000 in cash prizes will have been given to the top finishers.
There is also quite a lineup of entertainment, with several up-and-coming country music acts. Throughout the years, the Sikeston Rodeo has brought in some well-known country artists like Travis Tritt, Lorrie Morgan, Tanya Tucker and Pam Tillis.
There are two musical acts on opening night, Joe Nichols, who opened for Brooks & Dunn at Cape Girardeau's Show Me Center in April, and the band Emerson Drive. Blake Shelton will perform Thursday, Chris Cagle on Friday and Phil Vassar on Saturday.
All of the acts will perform after the completion of the competitive events, sometime between 9 and 9:30 p.m.
Stoner said about half the attendees come for the rodeo events and about half for the musical acts, but that the two complement each other.
"I feel that most people enjoy the rodeo and the entertainment," said rodeo co-chairman Mike Conway. "Even die-hard rodeo fans will tell you that the entertainment is an added value."
Like major leagues
The Sikeston rodeo is one of the only rodeos in this part of the country that is sanctioned by the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association. A PRCA-sanctioned rodeo is like the major leagues in baseball, Stoner said. Sanctioned rodeos are larger and attract better competitors than events not sanctioned by PRCA.
The first competitors allowed to sign up for the rodeo have to be PRCA members and be ranked in the top 20 percent of their event. Stoner said competitors are well aware of and familiar with the Sikeston rodeo.
In the past, the Sikeston rodeo has been nominated for best large outdoor rodeo at the National Finals Rodeo convention. According to Stoner, the National Finals is like the Super Bowl of rodeos and includes a convention where awards are presented.
Preparing for a rodeo, however, is no easy task. Planning for next year's event begins before this year's is finished. For the rodeo board, there are entertainment lineups to consider, rodeo stock to secure and contract workers to hire. Sikeston Jaycee members started working at the rodeo grounds in March, making sure, among other things, the grass was taken care of and the bathrooms were in working order.
"It takes a lot to put on a rodeo of this size," Stoner said.
This year, at least, there have been no bumps along the way.
"Everything has gone really well. We're ready for the rodeo," Stoner said.
In addition to the competitive events and the musical entertainment, the Sikeston rodeo will also feature food and drinks and rodeo pageants to crown the Rodeo Queen, Junior Miss Rodeo Queen and Little Miss and Mr. Western.
"We want to provide great entertainment for the patrons so they'll walk out of here thinking rodeo is a great sport and wanting to come back here next year," Stoner said.
335-6611, extension 182
WANT TO GO?
What: Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo
When: Starts at 7 p.m. today through Saturday
Where: Sikeston Rodeo Grounds, 1220 N. Ingram Road
Information: (800) 455-BULL or (573) 471-7196