By Paul Cooley
When the 69th annual Gerry Fire Department's PRCA rodeo opens on Wednesday at 8 p.m., a number of changes will be in place to improve the event for the fans.
The most obvious change will be the return of the Saturday afternoon matinee at 2 p.m. Rodeo chairman Tom Atwell says this change is in response to requests from senior citizens, groups of handicapped persons and families with small children for whom late hours create difficulty. The matinee is in addition to the nightly shows at 8 p.m. through Saturday.
One of the problems in rodeos across the country has been the lack of bareback and saddle bronc riders. In an effort to solve this situation at Gerry, Shane Graham of Painted Pony Pro Rodeo, the stock contractor for this rodeo, has posted an additional $3,000 of his own money in each of those two events to make it more attractive for cowboys to travel here. As a result 40 riders have paid their entry fees to compete in those two events, the largest number in recent years.
Children are receiving special attention through the free children's' rodeo at 11 a.m. on Saturday and each performance will also allow children to enter the arena to participate in the "calf scramble." Wednesday has reduced prices for children, plus a free children's ticket is available on-line at the rodeo website. In addition the midway will feature sand art, face painting, and pony rides for the kids, and cowboys and cowgirls, as well as the clowns and bull fighters, will sign autographs following each performance.
A special treat for both children and adults will be the singing of the National Anthem by 6-year-old Gabriel Graham.
To keep up with today's technology and to keep fans from standing in line, the rodeo committee has made arrangements for tickets for both the rodeo and the beef barbecue dinners to be purchased on-line at ticketfly.com. Tickets will also be available at the rodeo office during the day or prior to each performance.
With a record number of contestants and prize money, Atwell says he hopes these changes will help make this "the best rodeo in our 69 years". This is now the longest consecutively running rodeo east of the Mississippi and all proceeds go the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department. Barbecue dinners are served daily at 5 p.m. with the midway opening at the same time.
Additional information is available at the rodeo website www.gerryrodeo.org or by phone at 985-4847 or 1-888-985-4847.