There will be roping, riding and wrestling steers tonight through Saturday, Aug. 7-9, in Ringgold, Ga.
More than 400 contestants - ranging in age from 5-year-old little ropers through adult men and women - will saddle up to help fight childhood cancer in the 17th annual St. Jude Rodeo at the Doug Yates Farm. The event is a sanctioned Professional Cowboy Association rodeo, meaning competitors will be shooting for high scores to raise their PCA points standings before the PCA finals in February.
Three of the last four years, this St. Jude Rodeo has been named the PCA's Rodeo of the Year, according to Doug Yates, who says the event draws standing-room only crowds on Friday and Saturday nights.
"All proceeds go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital," he stresses. "Last year we raised a little over $70,000; we've already passed $1 million in total."
¦ What: St. Jude Rodeo.
¦ When: 6 p.m.-midnight today-Saturday, Aug. 7-9; gates open at 6 p.m., rodeo starts at 8.
¦ Where: Doug Yates Farm, Highway 151, Ringgold, Ga. (Take I-75
South to Ringgold Exit 348, then south on Highway 151 for six miles to arena on right).
¦ Admission: $12 adults,
$6 children ages 6-12.
¦ Phone: 615-476-5648.
3 nights of rodeo competition
75 volunteers to put on the rodeo
6,500 seats in the bleachers
$70,000 average donation raised for St. Jude Children's Hospital
The Grand Entry opens last year's St. Jude Rodeo at Doug Yates Farm in Ringgold, Ga. The 17th rodeo opens tonight at 6 p.m. All proceeds benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Three of the last four years, the rodeo was named rodeo of the year by the Professional Cowboy Association.
Competitive events are bareback riding, saddle broncs, breakaway roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, calf roping and bull riding.
Yates says this rodeo began 19 years ago. Seeing it was successful after two years, Yates says he decided the event should benefit a charity on its third year. He approached Sammy George at WUSY-101, the radio station's former general manager, with that idea.
"He's a big supporter of St. Jude. He got behind us, we got other big sponsors and now we have people approaching us to help because they know all the money goes to St. Jude," says Yates.
In addition to sponsors, it takes 70 to 75 community volunteers' assistance to staff the event, which keeps growing in attendance and activities. In addition to the eight rodeo events that take place in the outdoor arena, there is a free children's area in a covered arena where kids can bounce on inflatables, try out a climbing wall, bungee jump, ride a pony or get their face painted.
Yates says this PCA event differs from other rodeos in that it is three nights long to accommodate the high number of competitors. Most others are two.
"You are only required to have eight people in an event; we have 12 in each of ours. So we're looking at 96 people a night, and we always have around 400 contestants," he explains
So the Ringgold rodeo added some "slack," which Yates explains is a way to accommodate contestants who are serious about roping and riding for points.
"After Thursday and Friday night's rodeo and the crowd is leaving, we start all over again for people competing for the money. If we ran everybody each night, the show would average more than five hours. People don't want to sit through all that. So we plan the show with a variety of ages and interesting events, then after that, start the slack," Yates explains.
"It seems like this rodeo is getting better and better each year. It has become one of the largest outdoor rodeos this side of the Mississippi."
Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6284.