A great, young rodeo is coming to town.
The National Junior High Rodeo Association Finals (NJHRA) will be stampeding into the Ward Ag Center in Lebanon, June 19-25. More than 1,500 young cowboys and cowgirls from across the US and Canada will compete for college scholarships in 13-events with two grueling performances each day. The top four cowboys or cowgirls in each event will vie for the national championship.
It is a big deal.
Just what is rodeo? Rodeo comes from the Spanish word ro-de-ar, meaning to encompass or round-up. Cowboys working round-ups held competitions among ranches to see who was the best rider or roper in the land. From these humble beginnings, rodeo has grown into a multi-billion dollar sport. As events were added and rules were written, nationally known sponsors got on board and the prize money increased. Top riders can earn well over a million dollars a year.
These days, riding in the rodeo is a great way to make a living. Check out the NJHRA Finals and you’ll see how these future rodeo stars get their start. The contestants coming to Lebanon in June are exceptional on many levels and the horses these young people ride are prized athletes.
Contestants at the finals are wholesome, clean-cut, junior high school students. Yes ma’am and No sir has been part of their language since they learned to speak. They travel across the country with their horse, their tack, their RV, Mom and Dad and their extended family. This is their hobby, which could possibly turn in to their future career. This is their passion.
With nervous families watching in the stands, these kids give it their all and they are fearless. Obviously, every precaution is made to insure their safety but it’s hard to safeguard against getting bucked off! They make it look so easy on TV.
So why compete? Passion for the sport is the top reason, but many of these teens are riding for an education. From the Jr. High level, contestants move on to the high school competition. Full-ride scholarships are up for grabs from 137 colleges and universities participating in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.
Many of these youngsters you’ll see at the NJHRA Finals in Lebanon will go on to become professional rodeo stars. Making the big bucks and never having to sit in a board room is an achievable goal. Imagine making your first “mil” riding in one rodeo.
But easy money – it isn’t. Believe me.
How’s this for a tough day at the office? Bareback bronc riding, barrel racing, breakaway roping, bull riding, tie down roping, cutting horse competition, goat tying, pole bending, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, reined cow-horse competition and that’s not counting the shooting sports - obviously not held in the rodeo arena. These are the 13 events awaiting the contestants at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon. The best of the best in conquering these challenges will be crowned national champion. In a later blog, I’ll explain some of these events in greater detail.
The economic impact will be tremendous. This is the first time the NJHRA Finals have been held east of the Mississippi, and that makes Wilson County a novelty in a sense. Lush greenery, trees, babbling brooks – there’s not much of that scenery where some of these families call home. Quite literally, they’ll be like kids in a candy store.
As many as 45,000 visitors are expected to take in the sights here, spending more than $9.2 million dollars. Almost every business will benefit. Hotels and restaurants will be packed. These tourists will shop for souvenirs, they’ll sample new foods, re-stock the supplies needed for the competition, and they’ll enjoy touring the beautiful Tennessee landscape. Cash registers will be ringing across the county.
NO BULL? GET ONE!
Ask any rancher, there aren’t many places where you can buy a bull for the small sum of $250. But in Wilson County, you can have one delivered to your business to put on display, you can decorate it any way you like, name it, encourage your customers to make selfies, and then call to have the bull picked up and stored until next year’s rodeo. Plus, these wooden bulls don’t eat much. Call the Lebanon Wilson Chamber of Commerce at 615-444-5503 for more info on how you can become a proud owner of a rodeo bull to show your support for the NJHRA coming to town. (We’re told that the rodeo folk look for these bulls and patronize the businesses that proudly display them).
Make plans now to attend some rodeo performances at the Ward Agricultural Center, June 19-25. Tickets go on sale here soon!
Guest blog provided by our good friend John L Sloan...