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NJHFR returns to Ward Ag Center

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The National Junior High School Rodeo Finals-NJHSRF, will once again be stampeding in the Ward Ag Center for the second year of a two-year contract. That explains what all the plywood bulls are doing at businesses around town. Competition, featuring over 1,000 of the top, junior high-age contestants from across this country and even Canada, Mexico and maybe even Australia will kick off Sunday, June 18, at 7 P.M. A total of 13-performances will be held from June 18-24. The short go-for the finalists in each event and champions awards will be held 30-minutes following the last performance on Saturday night, June 24.

Two arenas will be used to accommodate the huge contestant list with 14 events plus a queen contest. Events include: bareback bronc riding, barrel racing, breakaway roping, bull riding, tie down roping, cutting horse competition, goat tying, pole bending, queen contest, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, reined cow horse competition and shooting sports-obviously not held in the rodeo arena. With the exception of the shooting sports and the queen contest, events are separated into two categories-timed events and bucking events. In the bucking events, at this age level, it is a bit different from what you may be accustomed to. The boys ride steers with a saddle and a bareback riggin instead of the horses used at higher age levels. It is a safety factor. Also, in the steer wrestling, instead of jumping from horses to the steer's back, cowboys grab the steer right out of the chute. It is called steer dogging. I'll explain this in a future column.

So, what does it all mean to Lebanon? First, using 1,000 contestants as a base, you can figure about 4,500 visitors in town for a week. Then, add in rodeo officials and personnel. Let's just say a round figure of about 5,000 people spending money. How much money? I have no idea. I do know, the smart businesses use their signage wisely. Rodeo folks support those who support them. A sign reading, "Welcome Rodeo Fans and Contestants", can do a lot to attract business. If I owned an eatery, I'd have sign saying, "Free Drink to Rodeo Contestants With Back Number". I expect you get the idea. For sure, if I had one of those plywood bulls, I would have a big sign, saying, "Welcome Rodeo Visitors". That way, folks would know what they are for.

How about what it means to the kids? They are not competing for cash as they do on the higher levels of the sport. But scholastic aid, such as scholarships and grants are awarded to winners along with trophy belt buckles and saddles. Just about everyone gets something and of course, for a select few, the title of National Champion will be awarded. Just as a side note, I went to college for four years on a full-ride, rodeo scholarship. I know how valuable that can be.

After the first performance on June 18, there will be two performances a day set for 9-A.M. and 7-P.M. Tickets may be purchased in advance until June 9. A season pass, good for all performances is $55 for kids and $100 for adults. Now here is a tip. If you are going to attend most or all of the performances, maybe be visiting a friend or relative camped on the grounds and the trade show, you may be in for a lot of walking. You can rent a golf cart. And here is big tip. Go on-line to NHSRA and click on Junior High Division, then just click on what you need and you can get tickets and a golf cart right there. For more complete information, it can be found on-line at the website I listed or by calling Donna Bain at the Ward Ag Center.

Along with the rodeo, there is a giant trade show featuring every kind of western apparel or equipment you can imagine and trust me, the prices are not bad. If you are in need, (or like me, just want,), a new hat or pair of boots or jeans, this is the place. The trade show is in the new Expo Center and is free-no admission charge-and it is open starting Sunday, June 18, from 10-7.

What about quality of competition? Well, just consider this. Not only have many or perhaps most of the today's professional World Champions, came up through this program. They moved into the high school program, then college and then turned pro. These youngsters are the best from every state, province or even country.

Trust me. This is a big event, one well worth your attendance. It not only brings notoriety to Lebanon and Wilson County, it brings revenue. Just how much, I have no idea but it certainly deserves your support. The NJHSRF meets all the criteria for true quality, family entertainment.

I bet even Coleman Walker will dust off his boots and don a cowboy hat for this one. Don't forget. June 18-24, Ward Ag Center. I'll see you there.

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James E. Ward Ag Center, John L. Sloan, National Junior High finals Rodeo, NJHFR
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