by Nancy Bishop
Get ready for a taste of the Old West as the 35th Annual Frontier Days & Championship Rodeo comes to Benton July 16 to 21!
Voted one of the best of the more than 65 rodeos east of the Mississippi River by the American Professional Rodeo Association, the event draws cowboys and cowgirls from all over the United States and Canada to compete.
Stopping by the rodeo grounds located off Mendenhall Lane in Benton this week, I found Mel Parks, chairman of the Benton Rodeo Association, and Brian Bower, the Association’s corporate secretary, getting ready for the event that kicks off Tuesday night with a “Fun Horse Show” for riders of all ages. Come out and watch at 7:30 p.m. in the 3,500-seat arena for a chance to see local kids compete in events including Keyhole. Admission is free Tuesday and again on Wednesday for the “3D Barrel Race,” which is open to riders of all ages.
Then Thursday through Saturday is Championship Rodeo every night from 7:30 to 10:30 pm. Riders will compete in events like Bareback Bronc Riding, Calf Roping, Saddle Bronc Riding, Steer Wrestling, Team Roping and Tie Down Roping. The events are sanctioned by the American Professional Rodeo Association (APRA), the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) and the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association (SEBRA).
Saddle bronc riding is a classic event that evolved from the task of breaking and training horses to work the cattle ranches of the Old West. Riders must markout their horses on the first jump from the chute. To properly mark out the horse, the saddle bronc rider must have both heels touching the animal above the point of its shoulders when it makes its first jump from the chute. If the rider misses his mark, he receives no score.
But one of events people really like to watch is the Bull-A-Rama on Sunday night, Parks and Bower told me. Dangerous and exciting, riding a galloping bull demands intense physical prowess, supreme mental toughness and courage. The bull rider is allowed to use only one hand to stay aboard. If he touches the bull or himself with his free hand, or fails to stay on the bull for eight seconds, he receives no score.
Gates will be open Tuesday through Sunday at 5 p.m. for the events, but come early because there can be a line of traffic to get to the parking area on the grounds.
And if the excitement of watching the riders compete isn’t enough, come out to the Rodeo for the food! One of the goals of the Benton Rodeo Association is to provide fundraising opportunities for Benton area community groups. You’ll find Stillwater Christian Church serving up sausage sandwiches, pierogies, hot dogs, hamburgers, soup and more. Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Zion United Church of Christ will be making breakfast.
Scouts BSA Troop 51 from Benton will have their “Nachos Plus.” Benton Fire Company will be serving fresh-cut French fries. And, of course, there will be my personal favorite – ice cream – from the Benton Lions Club. Although what’s really making me want to visit the Rodeo are the “really thick” milkshakes Parks and Bower told me Benton Christian Church makes.
There also will be a Rodeo Walk/Run for Leukemia & Lymphoma Cure on Saturday at 8 a.m. And at 10 a.m. Saturday will be the Special Kids Roundup, a free show and lunch for special needs kids and their guests.
See you at the Rodeo!