Local teens to saddle up for youth rodeo
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Sean “Frog” Bass, a South Iredell High School 9th grader, will be among more than 200 participants saddling up for a youth rodeo this weekend.
The first annual South Iredell FFA Alumni Rodeo will be Friday, April 21, and Saturday, April 22, at the Iredell County Fairgrounds. Two hundred youth and teen participants are registered for each of the two main performances and the two slack events this weekend, according to event organizers.
Teens from the North Carolina High School Rodeo Association (NCHSRA) and other youth riders will participate, with title sponsor Lancaster’s BBQ helping to underwrite the event. The rodeo proceeds will go to fund FFA travel to competitions as well as projects at SIHS, said FFA Alumni President David Sherrill.
For five years, Bass has been active on the youth rodeo circuit, participating in team and tie-down roping. “I wasn’t into it at first. My dad started my brothers and sister, but when I saw what fun they were having, I jumped right in the next year,” said Bass.
He spends about eight hours each week practicing for weekend competitions, which run every few weeks during the season, which runs September through the next August.
Bass enjoys getting the opportunity to going to nationals, competing against the best rodeo participants from every state. He has traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, and Lebanon, Tenn., to compete in national events and is on track to travel to Wyoming to compete this summer.
To reach the nationals, competitors must be in the Top 4 in their events after a regular season of 12 events and then a three-day state level competition. The Top 4 performers in the nationals then go on to a world competition, Bass said.
“I have made so many friends through rodeoing,” said Bass. “I enjoy getting to do it and have fun hanging with my friends.”
In the ring, however, Bass’s competitive spirit comes to the forefront. Bass rides his quarter horse Piper, one of the family’s eight horses, in competition. He hopes to move up to the Southern Rodeo Association level and hopefully compete professionally in a few years.
“I hope people will come out to support us this weekend. The event raises money for FFA, and we really need money to help pay for travel to regional and national FFA competitions,” he said.
COWGIRLS LOVE RODEO TOO
Kayla Earnhardt, 13, a 9th grader at Liberty Preparatory Christian Academy in Mooresville, began her love of horses at age 4 with lessons at a friend’s farm. She went on to learn rodeo skills in barrels, poles, and goat-tying events. In 6th grade, she started with the NCHSRA rodeo circuit.
Earnhardt particularly enjoys the social aspects of the rodeo world. “Whenever you hang out with everyone, it’s just like family. I like bonding with the animals too. It’s really fun.”
Earnhardt rides her horse Fly for barrels and poles and Shorty for her breakaway event. She also enjoys ribbon roping events.
The behavior expectations are high for rodeo competitors, including academics, according to Earnhardt. “You have to be passing your core classes, and you must get a paper signed to turn in to the secretary at the rodeo to see if you are allowed to compete.”
Earnhardt won the Junior Southern Rodeo Association all-around state title and also took the state title in barrel racing, pole-bending, and breakaway. She was the state junior SRA goat-tying champion, also winning at the high school level as well. She went to nationals twice, once in goat-tying and ribbon roping and the second time in goat-tying.
Earnhardt wants to do college rodeo at Texas or Oklahoma State, specializing in goat-tying and breakaway, as well as possibly barrels and poles. She would like to eventually compete at the professional level.
Earnhardt credits friend Tracy Morris, a former rodeo rider who runs Sweet Fire Farm in Cleveland, N.C., for helping her develop as rodeo competitor. “She has been a real influence and blessing in my life.”
Earnhardt now gives back to younger rodeo enthusiasts by helping Morris in her youth classes in roping, goat tying, barrels, and poles. She also travels with Morris to do youth rodeo clinics in other cities.
SIHS ninth grader Cheyenne Garmon has also been competing since age 4, but has been riding since she could sit on a horse. “My dad was in the rodeo when he was little and went to nationals. He always said that when he had kids, that’s that they are going to do too.”
Garmon rides her 20-year-old thoroughbred black quarter horse Outlaw in barrel racing and pole bending events and her 22-year-old horse D2 in breakaway rope and goat tying events.
“I love the adrenaline rush. If you’re not winning, it’s not fun. Some kids don’t get upset, there’s always next time, but my daddy and I, we get all torn up about it,” said Garmon.
“You don’t feel anything when you get out there,” said Garmon. “You don’t think. It’s just all muscle memory. For some people it’s not like that, but for me, when I get in that alley way or back in that box, it all goes blank.”
Garmon has made many friends in her years on the rodeo circuit. “People who do the same thing as you, have the same lifestyle, you really find stuff to bond over. We all grew up together.”
She wants to continue rodeo competition through high school and college. “If I get some new horses, I plan to try pro too,” said Garmon.
The high school level main events will begin at 7:30 each night, with middle school, a few high school, and “slack” events beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Middle school rough stock events (with bulls and bucking horses) will be in the evenings.
“Slack” events allow overflow entrants to still have an opportunity to compete since evening events are limited to eight participants, chosen by the luck of the draw from the pool applying for each event.
Derrick Bass, president of the North Carolina High School Rodeo Association and FFA Alumni member, expects two rounds of slack competition on Saturday, probably from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m., depending on the number registered to compete.
On Saturday, middle school students will also get to participate in a “Build a Cowboy” event in which they put riggings on larger cows (like they put on horses in high school events) so kids can learn rodeo techniques for future competitions.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for kids (5 and under are free). Admission is $7 for military members and first responders showing their IDs.
Sherrill said that concessions will also be available at the two-day event. Several food trucks, ice cream and snack concessions, and drinks will be onsite.
Handicapped parking will be available, and they hope to have some golf carts available to help. Attendees are invited to bring umbrellas and rain gear to combat predicted showers this weekend. Popup tents and bag chairs are permissible off to the side as long as they do not block the view of others.
“As long as it’s not thundering and lightning, we’re going to be out there doing it,“ said Bass.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
To learn about rodeo events, read the preview article at http://svlfreenews.com/sports/teen-rodeo-benefit-sihs-future-farmers-america-program-set-april-21-22.
For more information about the NCHSRA, go to http://www.nchsrodeo.com or visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NC-High-School-Rodeo-Association-991221820994313/.
To learn more about the South Iredell High School FFA, visit the organization’s webpage at http://southiredellffa.theaet.com/AETHome.aspx?ID=18460.