When Melissa Kakouris took the position of executive director of the Perryville Area Chamber of Commerce in January, she began a crash course in rodeo organization.
She didn't know much about the sport before taking the job, she admitted, "but I do now."
"I went to Oklahoma City for the international finals in January," said Kakouris, a Perryville native.
The International Finals Rodeo is the championship event for the International Professional Rodeo Association, which will bring 136 competitors to the East Prairie Fair Grounds in Altenburg tonight and Saturday for the fifth annual Perry County Community Rodeo.
Activities begin at 6:15 each evening with mutton busting for children. A calf scramble for children 10 and under follows around 7 p.m. The grand entry precedes the rodeo events, which are scheduled to begin around 7:30. Wild cow milking will take place at intermissions and musical entertainment is planned after the rodeo on both evenings.
In addition, Miss USA Rodeo Joanna Blackwell will attend.
"We also have three previous Miss USA winners coming back at their own expense because they like this rodeo so much," Kakouris said.
"This has kept us very busy," added Kakouris, who was raised in Perryville and moved to St. Louis for college and lived there for 13 years before moving back to Perryville two years ago. "We just had our Mayfest. It keeps us on our toes."
Kakouris said last year's event attracted about 3,000 people. Proceeds go back into organizing the event, which is done by the chamber, the East Perry County Jaycees and the East Perry Community Fair Board. The rodeo's organizing includes 25 people, Kakouris said.
The competition will have a local flavor.
On Friday night, Billy Lema from Patton is scheduled to compete in bull riding; Chris Evans of Benton will compete in calf roping; Evan Burk of Jackson will team with Casey Little of Tuscola, Ill., and also with Josh Hafley of Murray, Ky., in team roping.
Matt Cissell of Perryville will compete Saturday in bull riding, as will Dustin Ogelvie of Oak Ridge. Also competing Saturday are Terri Massa of Marble Hill and Cathy Schmidt of Jackson in barrel racing.
Erik Wolford of Clinton, Mich., is scheduled in three events Saturday -- bareback riding, saddle bronc and bull riding. He leads IPRA in all-around earnings this year and is among the circuit's top three in each of those events.