Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Behind the scenes at the rodeo

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How about a few acres of golf carts? The largest rental contract for golf cars ever written. They will all be used.
Lebanon’s own Donna Baines and NHSRA Executive Director Jim Higginbotham get ready to go handle just one more detail.
Arena Director Art Cochrane makes sure the measurements are right, and the dirt gets spread perfectly.
Austin White, in the big hat, and Gil Vigil look over the plethora of media material being ready for the local, regional and national press.
The Resistol guys get their hats ready for the trade show.

Donna Baines? She's busy. Art Cochrane? He's busy. Gil Vigil? Really busy. Austin White? Forget it. But you want to know who is really busy?

Jim Higginbotham.

Higginbotham is the executive director of the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA). Based in Denver, they are the governing body of the National Junior High School Rodeo Association, and that outfit is almost living at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon. Every inch of that place is being used and being prepared for Saturday. What happens Saturday? Well, to start, over 1,000 young cowboys and cowgirls from about 45 states, Canada and Australia will compete for national titles in 13 rodeo events and firearm marksmanship. That is a lot of activity.

The number of riding and competition horses and rodeo livestock is staggering, and it all must be safely and humanely housed. That means a lot of stalls and space, and someone has to make sure it all gets up in time. The actual number of rodeo personnel and volunteers was too numerous to count. I promise, it will fill two motels and then some. I hope the guys at The Blue Moon BBQ are ready with plenty of brisket.

The fairgrounds is an absolute beehive of activity. Everybody is running 900 miles per hour getting ready for the chutes to swing wide and the bucking to begin. I bet you, right now, Blaize Deere and her brother Brett are busy. Between them, these two youngsters from Tennessee will be competing in six events. Connor Griffith, another young Volunteer will be competing in seven events. There are a total of 18 young Tennessee cowboys and cowgirls competing for national titles in everything from pole-bending and barrel racing to tie-down roping and bull riding - not to mention the beautiful buckles and thousands of dollars in scholarship money.

This is a big deal. Starting on Sunday, June 19 at 7 p.m., a total of 13 performances will be held. From Monday through Saturday, there will be two performances a day starting at 9 a.m. and again at 7 p.m. And there is plenty to do in between. Take the trade show, for instance.

White, marketing director for NHSRA told me he has some 75-plus vendors coming, including big brand names like Cinch, Ariat, American Hats and Pro Choice. If it is western or horse-related, and you want it, you can find it at the trade show - no extra admission fee.

And say, have you ever seen 750 golf carts in action? That is how many they have on hand to handle transportation of officials, contestants, media and maybe fans. White says it's the biggest golf cart rental contract ever. That is a lot of golf carts.

And did I mention the two Jumbotrons? I guess that comes under the purview of Cochrane, who is from Manitoba, Canada. He is the arena director. Vigil, assistant marketing director, introduced me to him as we took a tour of the area. I wanted to find out if he had any good hunting, but he was too busy to talk. Everything has to be just right. Vigil was concerned with getting the media center ready. There's going to be a lot of press in town - you know, those real professional writers.

Everybody is busy. Acres of horse and other livestock stalls have to be ready. Camper parking has to be ready. A million details have to be handled, and Higginbotham is over all of it. He is running the bee hive. Let me give you two valuable tips: first, don't miss this one. It is a big deal, really big. And second, use the gate to Fiddlers Grove, just about in front of the Dollar General Store. Don't use the Tennessee Avenue entrance, and remember, the main gates are closed due to construction.

It starts Sunday night at 7 p.m. and runs all next week. The National Junior High Rodeo Finals is the springboard for these future world champions. You can get your tickets at the gate, and they are reasonable. Be there.

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