By Lacy Hilliard
Last weekend (September 7-8) the 2012 Chamber of Commerce Rodeo took place in Chamber Park in Doe Valley and as always the event had plenty to offer in the way of good old-fashioned cowboy fun. Professional cowboys and cowgirls came from near and far to compete at the annual Chamber of Commerce event and Chambers Park was packed full with rodeo enthusiasts. The action-packed event left even amateur rodeo fans yelling Yippie ki-yay little doggies!
Several hundred spectators were in attendance at this years event. Announcer Ronnie Lee and Rodeo Clown Eugene Fowlers humorous banter set the stage for an evening of classic Western-style bucking broncos, angry bulls and hopeful cowboys and cowgirls. Though the rodeo is considered as American as apple pie, its true origin lies in Spain all the way back to sixteenth century conquistadors. Spanish ranchers began the rodeo not as a bull-fighting event but as a way to showcase their superior livestock.
For those rodeo buffs that wanted to experience what its like to ride a bull without the unfortunate side effects like broken bones or concussions, a mechanical bull was available for anyone brave enough to take the challenge. Several food vendors were also in attendance providing everything from classic festival food like funnel cakes and hot dogs to pizza complete with a wide variety of toppings. Several Johnson County organizations were also in attendance like the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition that offered any willing participant a chance to win $50 in return for a completed drug survey. The group hopes that by obtaining as many completed surveys as possible, they can better serve their cause through community support programs and drug/alcohol awareness events. Katie McCulloch was there representing Laurel Elementary School by selling raffle tickets to support their annual Fall Festival. Anyone purchasing a ticket bought the chance to win a beautiful Western saddle or a 32-inch flat screen television. The top sponsors for this years Chamber Rodeo were Johnson County Bank, Modern Woodman, Mountain States Health Alliance, and Mountain City Care Center. Though these four businesses contributed the highest dollar amount to the event, dozens of Johnson County businesses and individuals showed their support by contributing monetarily, making the event a true community-wide effort.
This years rodeo offered the traditional array of competitive events including; bareback riding or Bucking Horses, Cowboy Calf Roping, Cowgirl Breakaway Roping, Cowgirl Barrel Racing, Team Roping, Mutton Busting and Bull Riding. Each event was held both Friday and Saturday night, ensuring that every attendee was able to enjoy their fair share of the action. Its no secret that any sport involving livestock comes with a set of inherent risks. The looming threat of danger combined with the athleticism of the competitors always makes for an interesting show and for the competing cowboys and cowgirls, injuries are the equivalent to just another day at the office. Though there is risk involved with every rodeo event, climbing on the back of an extremely angry bull with nothing but your passion for the sport to protect you may well be classified as complete and total insanity. You may wonder what inspires an otherwise sane individual to put their life in the hands of an irate 2,000-3,300 pound animal; Twenty-three-year-old bull rider Robert Carter will tell you that his rodeo career is the fulfillment of his earliest childhood dream. Though Carter has suffered everything from a collapsed lung to several broken bones, he has no intention of giving up the sport, stating, You really have to love it; but its the greatest adrenaline rush in the world. Passion is a common theme for every competitor on the scene. Not only do the athletes endure injuries but many of them spend the entire season on the road, away from their families with only the hope of success to keep them company. For some, however, the rodeo is a family affair.
The Dodd family, from Dallas, North Carolina, knows that a family that rodeos together, stays together. Every member of the family is a competitive cowboy or girl including eight-year-old Madison and her little brother, four-year-old Zane. Their mother and father (Leeann and Charles) couldnt be prouder of their rodeo legacy and they hope to continue the tradition for years to come. The Carson family follows the same philosophy; the family travels from event to event performing an exciting intermission show. Father, Shane Carson, leads the act by showcasing his mounted shooting skills. Carson begins the act by shooting balloons that are mounted on a series of wooden cacti. His wife, Susie, enters the act with a daring feat that gives marital trust a whole new meaning. Susie holds several wooden strips in her hands and even her mouth while her husband uses a bullwhip to snap them into pieces. Four-year-old Clay enters the act also brandishing a bullwhip. The young athlete follows in his fathers footsteps, as he does a bit of slicing and dicing of his own. Upon viewing the roster for the event, its obvious by taking note of the competitors last names that the Dodd family and the Carson family are just a few of the competitors that believe the rodeo is a family affair.
Out of all the last names on the roster for this years Chamber Rodeo, one was perhaps more recognizable than any other to Johnson County race fans. Taylor Earnhardt Putnam, daughter of the late Dale Earnhardt, has been a professional cowgirl for over ten years. For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.
By Lacy Hilliard