BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Tablets. Cell phones. Netflix. These are often the sources of entertainment for millions across America. What has happened to family entertainment? More and more ‘family time’ is spent around a TV, but this is not how it has always been. The Polk County Fair and Rodeo Association seeks to provide quality family entertainment at a price that is affordable for everyone.
Modern rodeo has its origins on ranches dating back to the 1700s. After cowboys would complete a long cattle drive to the stockyard, the cowboys would began to brand, herd the cattle, and break-in the horses. The cowboys would hold informal competitions among themselves to determine who had the best riders and ropers. Before they knew it, rodeo was born. Cowboys began to include their wives and as time went on it became a family event, a time when everyone gathered to have fun after a day of hard work. At the time, little frontier towns would host a rodeo or what was then called ‘gatherings’ and cowboys would travel and have ‘Cowboy Competitions.’ These competitions provided a way to earn a little extra income and as the lifestyle of the western frontier disappeared, the popularity of rodeo continued to grow.
Wendy Strother, Chairman of the Rodeo Board, desires for rodeos and events at the riding arena to serve the community as they did in the 1700s, by providing quality family entertainment. “Family entertainment and fun is really what rodeo is all about. Our hope is that we can provide a safe and fun environment for families to come and enjoy a good show.” Wendy has been serving on the board for 28 years and rodeo has been a big part of her life and she wants for people to enjoy the sport the way she has. When families attend the rodeo in Mena they will see the press box with the name Andy Risenhoover, long time rodeo announcer. The name represents so much more, his name represents the hard work of countless people to make the riding arena and rodeo in Mena a place for everyone to come. “I knew Andy from rodeos he did with my grandparents. For many of us out here, we love this place so much because it has meant so much to our families. Our hope is that through hard work we can provide a place for families to gather for years and years to come,” says Wendy.
Often, it is easy to take something for granted until you no longer have it and this is most likely true of the fairgrounds in Mena. “I have been involved with rodeo all my life and have traveled all across the country and not everyone has what we have here. There are many rodeos that are talking to land owners asking to put up a portable arena,” explains Wendy. Like with anything, the upkeep of the arena and the price of hosting a rodeo and event can become expensive. Currently, the rodeo association is continuing to replace bleachers at the arena, but still have some way to go. “It adds up real quick when you start looking at costs. To provide quality entertainment and a rodeo that people want to come to, it takes money. Our cost for the stock in the rodeo is usually $9,000, the cost of providing quality stock that will bring out the best cowboys.” Wendy says that one of the biggest things the community can do is share their voice at their monthly meeting, which are the first Mondays of the month at 6 p.m. “The arena and the rodeo are here to serve the community and provide a place for people to come. We would love for people to come to the meeting and share what they would love to see and we will do what we can to implement ideas
While the Fair and Rodeo Association hosts the annual rodeo, the members also seek to provide opportunities for family fun throughout the year. “We always have something going on out here. Throughout the year there are play days for all ages. These are days where families can come out and enjoy a time of riding, running barrels, or for the little ones, roping goats. We have even had people who have come out and didn’t have a horse, but wanted to participate.” One of the most popular events in the that is hosted at the arena is the Handicapable Rodeo. The event is for those who may have different physical or mental challenges and allows for them and their families to enjoy the rodeo life and competition. “This is probably our favorite event. This is our 17th year in a row to host the event and we couldn’t without our sponsors. Our sponsors make it possible to give t-shirts to each contestant and make the admission for the event free.”
With a desire to make the rodeo a safe and fun place for families to gather, the members of the board have sought to make some fun changes for this year’s rodeo. “One of the things that will be different this year that we are excited about are large inflatable horses. This has been a popular event at other rodeos and so we are bringing it this year. We will also have Clara Morris, a local eight year old trick rider from Cove. Another thing that we have continued to do is keep our ticket prices at an affordable rate for everyone,” remarks Wendy. Like years past, the rodeo will also have calf scrambles, mutton bustin, and much, much more.
Look to a future edition of the Pulse for more information and details on the Polk County Rodeo.