9/4/2019 10:28:00 AM Sold-out Saturday rodeo a highlight of big weekend
The competition in the bareback riding is getting fierce as top cowboys are riding national finals horses from Championship Pro Rodeo. Eight riders placed in the money over the weekend at the Pioneer City Rodeo with a top ride of 87 points and sixth place at 82. (Tom Compton photo)
Positive thinking, good planning and a little bit of luck made for the best Pioneer City Rodeo in recent years.
"We had an excellent year," said Rodeo Chairman Marcus Deckard. "Matter of fact the best year since we came back to the PRCA."
The return of legendary clown Rudy Burns, great weather and a sold-out crowd all contributed to this year's Labor Day Celebration.
"When I started planning for the rodeo beginning of this year absolutely nothing was going in my favor," Deckard said. "With that came stress, aggravation, and everything else that comes with it! When the weekend approached I am not one that likes to see our rodeo come and go quickly but, in my mind, I wanted it to be comparable to last year, great performance and finish smoothly, and be done. That was all the aggravation and stress coming out!"
But things started coming around as the lights went up for the first performance, Burns returned after a five-year hiatus and the cowboys climbed into the saddles.
"The Friday night performance was an exceptional one, being our first night, and surprisingly everything went perfect with really nothing to work on for the second performance," Deckard said. "I received the number for the attendance and even though I thought we had more spectators than last year I was wrong! When I received the message, we were down 241 from 2018 that hit me hard. I questioned then will we ever get a break!"
Going into Saturday night Deckard said he was still apprehensive. A change in rules by the PRCA saw some cowboys cancel or go to other rodeos, but despite that many of the top cowboys and especially cowgirls from the Great Lakes and other circuits showed up to take their shot at the buckle and the money.
Perhaps it was Donna Kent smiling down on Saturday's rodeo that made the difference. To open Saturday night's performance announcer Mike Mathis paid special tribute to Kent, who died in June, and the Palestine Chamber of Commerce presented her husband with the Hall of Fame plaque with both his and Donna's names on it for this year.
Then the cowboys and cowgirls saddled up.
"Saturday night performance came around and again I was worried and stressed about the night knowing we all wanted a record-breaking night for the crowd and we got just that," Deckard said. "We had a complete sold-out crowd of 4,500 with not a single ticket left to sell; thanks to Tara Vennard for buying the last ticket the office had!"
The last sell-out crowd was 1996, so this was huge. "That was such a rush selling out and seeing the stands absolutely packed! This happened on a special night as we opened with remembering Donna Kent," Deckard said.
The Sunday performance was also a huge success with 3,258 spectators, an increase of 567 spectators from 2018. Year-end totals for attendance was 9,488 increasing us from 8,557 in 2018 to 9,488 in 2019. "We ended the rodeo 931 to the positive from 2018," Deckard said.
The beer tent and Show after the Show also had a good weekend. Vendors in the park and around town reported a good weekend, with 10,000 people wondering the streets of Palestine over the weekend.
The cancelation of the carnival rides and the last-minute scramble to finding replacement rides was accomplished through Lark Ranch pumpkin patch from Shoals, Ind. Lark Ranch took down all of their rides they had set up for their season to bring to Palestine on just a couple days notice. While there were not the bigger rides, the smaller children seemed to enjoy what was there.
Bull riding continues to be the most exciting and while the bulls won the battles a couple of cowboys took home the cash. Cole Fisher took the buckle and $4,086.33 for his 8 second ride and 84 points on Last Tangle. The other successful rider, Tyler Ray Viers, stayed on top of Sully for 81 points and $3,551.67.
Bareback and saddle bronc riding is getting bigger as 17 riders stayed up to earn a little cash. Shane O'Connell won the bareback with an 87 point ride, and Shorty Garrett the Saddle Bronc with an 84. Other winners were Jesse Hinkle, tie-down roping; Kamry Dymmek, steer wrestling; Cory Petska and Iceman Miller, team roping and Brittany Jacbson with a top speed of 16.96 seconds took the buckle in the barrel racing.
Charlee Stewart was crowned Miss Lab or Day, and for those wanting pancakes, they had to get in line really early as they sold out around 9:30 a.m. with a line halfway up Main Street during the Chuckwagon breakfast.
"The weekend was very successful with this being our best year we have had since our return to the PRCA. I want to thank all the sponsors, spectators, rodeo personnel and all the people who help us put our show together! Without all of you this would not be possible! The 2020 season of planning starts now to give all our fans an even better show that they had this year.," Deckard said.
"Planning for the rodeo is tough on the nerves for sure! It is worth every minute of it in the end! I love our rodeo and I think it is one of the best around! Everyone puts a lot of time in from the ticket office to the arena prepping for the event to make it what we have today," Deckard said. "You think this year was great just wait until next year. It's going to be even better!"