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Rodeo crews work to ensure fun experience

Jacob Smith • Jun 23, 2017 at 1:33 PM

The James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon is packed with RVs this week that belong to the more than 1,000 competitors and their families in town for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo.

With so many people, a lot of work went into maintaining the facilities, especially with the rain that wreaked havoc on the grounds Friday and threatens Saturday.

Kelly Anderson from Utah is the director of the rodeo this year, and he had his hands full trying to take care of the arena grounds.

Trucks come every day with sawdust for work crews to spread on the ground in the horses’ stables,” said Anderson. “The cattle have been moved to another facility out behind the competition arena where they are sheltered from the rain. Workers use heavy machinery to try to clear walking and driving areas of mud. There is definitely plenty of work to get done.

While it was sunny this morning, the competitors were still struggling with the conditions in the arena.

“There’s not much we can do about it really. We’ve tried, but it’s just a mess out there.”

Competitors walked the grounds covered in mud after their events.

“It’s more than mud out there,” said Anderson. “We’ve practically got a swamp.”

“I think the kids like it out there honestly,” said the father of a competitor from North Carolina. “I took a picture of him sitting up in the truck with mud all over and sent it to his mom. He thought that was hilarious.”

The muddy arena has created a less-than-ideal scenario for competitors trying to qualify for the next round.

“Our times from [Thursday] were about two seconds slower than the day before,” said Anderson. “I hate it for the kids that have to go today.”

Despite the conditions, attitudes from the competitors and their families were still mostly positive.

“The rain’s not great, but it’s OK,” said Doddie Schruder from Minnesota while watching her son wrestle a calf to the mud in the chute dogging competition. “We’re happy to be here, though.”

Schruder only had one complaint about the Tennessee weather so far, “It’s hot,” she said, laughing.

The rodeo has definitely brought an atmosphere of fun to Wilson County. Outside the rodeo events, there are other things going on throughout the week to keep the competitors busy.

“We got a field day coming up,” said Anderson. “We’ve also had a couple dances and a talent show. They have a blast out here.”

Rain or shine, the rodeo was a historic event for Wilson County both this year and last. The National Junior High Finals Rodeo is the second largest rodeo in the country and includes competitors from 48 states, as well as two Canadian provinces and Australia.

The last rodeo event will be Saturday at 7 p.m. and include the top performers in each event battling it out for first place.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit nhsra.com/junior-high-division. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate and cost $15 for adults and $10 for children. 

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