Job of flag girl at Perry County Community Rodeo stressful but fun

Sunday, June 7, 2009

ALTENBURG, Mo. -- As a flag girl with the Universal Rodeo Co., 16-year-old Genny Bradshaw of Kelso, Mo., gets to travel to rodeos around the country.

But for her, riding in the Perry County Community Rodeo's opening parade is special because she knows almost everyone in the audience.

"I love being in the arena, listening to the music, and getting the crowd all pumped," Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw and fellow flag girl Jennifer Watts, 18, of Bloomfield, Mo., described their role in the rodeo's opening parade, called the grand entry, as "the cheerleaders of the rodeo."

Their job is to get the crowd excited for the night's events, said Watts, who has been competing in barrel racing at rodeo since she was 5 years old.

Bradshaw said while on the road, the six who make up the Universal Rodeo's drill team often use their hands to mime the steps before they attempt the same routines on horseback.

Then they ride through the routines over and over until they have them memorized, sometimes practicing until after midnight.

"It's a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, but it's a lot of fun," Bradshaw said.

Friday night's rodeo schedule drew a bigger crowd than usual this year for opening night, said Fred Eggers, rodeo chairman. The rodeo does not keep a tally of attendance, but Eggers said Saturday typically has a larger crowd.

The Perry County Community Rodeo began in 2001, the result of a search for a new event that would draw crowds before the East Perry Community Fair at the end of summer. The first year drew a huge following because there had never been a rodeo in Perry County before, Eggers said.

This year, he said, the rodeo committee had to watch costs because sponsorship fell slightly due to the economy.

Bull riding is consistently the most popular event, likely because of the "thought of danger," with barrel racing a close second, Eggers said.

"I like the bull riding because it's rough and tough," said Bill Voelker of Perryville, Mo.

Voelker attended Saturday's rodeo with his wife, Donna, and two granddaughters, Emma, 5, and Olivia, 7, who like to come to see the horses.

"They love horses; they also like the girls the most," Voelker said, referring to the barrel racing events and Miss Rodeo USA 2009, Jamie Virden of Ellensburg, Wash.

Virden led the grand entry and participated in the rodeo.

The rodeo is a joint effort of the East Perry Community Fair and the East Perry County Jaycees.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent addresses:

Oak Ridge, MO

Kelso, MO

Altenburg, MO

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