Gates County Rodeo, May 12-13

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2006

GATES COUNTY – Get ready for the rodeo.

The ninth annual Gates County Championship Rodeo will be held on Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13.

The championship level event starts each night at 7:30 p.m. and features riders from across the country and Canada.

“This is a family event for any age,” Gates County Rodeo founder and organizer Aaron Brown emphasized. “The rodeo is alcohol free.”

Events include bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping, cowgirls’ barrel racing, breakaway roping and wild bull riding.

Brown expects at least 3,000 spectators for the event and has added extra bleachers and lights for this year’s event.

The rodeo also includes a wide variety of food, attractions for kids like mutton busting and a barn dance following the rodeo each night with D.J. Robert Earl Dilday on Friday and Mallory Buck and the Dual State Band on Saturday.

Tickets for the rodeo are $12 at the gate and $10 in advance for adults and $8 at the gate and $6 in advance for children ages 5 n 12. Children four and under get in free. Tickets can be purchased at Central Ford in Ahoskie and Lane Farm Supply in Gates.

The event is held on Page-Riddick Road, off Hwy. 13, one mile south of the Virginia/North Carolina state line.

“When I was a child my dad competed in calf roping at rodeos and I have always wanted to hold one since then,” Brown said.

“I really enjoy it (holding the rodeo)”.

Roping events require agility, timing, speed, strength and a highly trained horse. During the calf-roping event, a calf is released and the cowboy must rope it as quickly as possible.

Brown’s two children, Austin (14) and Alexa (11), also play important roles in the event. Austin competes in the team roping event and Alexa will carry the American Flag during the national anthem. This year for the first time, Brown and his son are going to compete together in the team roping.

Team roping involves one roper known as the “header” and one roper known as the “heeler”. The header ropes the steer’s horns, wraps the rope around the saddle horn and then turns the steer so the heeler can wrap the steer’s hind legs.

Austin competes in rodeos throughout the region and is ranked number one on the East Coast in his division.

The Gates County Fire Department and Rescue Squad assist Brown with the rodeo and sell popcorn and peanuts to raise money during the event.

“They really enjoy it,” Brown said. “This once a year event allows them to work together.

“The Reynoldson Baptist Church will sell funnel cakes,” Brown added. “Nixon’s catering will provide the food.”

Brown started the rodeo nine years ago after his father passed away.

“Watching the children have a good time is my favorite thing about the rodeo,” Brown said. “My children look forward to it every year.

“It makes me feel good when they tell me there are classmates talking about the rodeo at school,” Brown said.

Brown spends months planning the event and his family from Pennsylvania comes to help put on the show. He hires clowns, brings in sound equipment, sets up bleachers, mows the surrounding fields and organizes everyone involved.

This year Brown is flying in one of the best rodeo announcers in the world, Andy Stewart, from Monroe, La.

“The stock contractor is out of Liberty, SC,” Brown added.

The stock contractor provides the broncs, barebacks and bulls for the events, including 2,000 pound bucking bulls.

The riders compete for thousands of dollars in prize money and fight for points in their season long competition.

During the calf roping events, the cowboy dismounts after making the catch, sprints to the calf and tosses it on its side, which is called flanking. With a small rope known as a pigging string, any three of the calf’s legs are tied securely. Time stops when the cowboy throws up his hands.

Events like saddle bronc riding grew out of ranch cowboys breaking wild horses to use as working cow horses. Modern saddle bronc riding is similar with only a few modifications, mainly in equipment. Bareback and bull riding relies more on strength, while saddle bronc riding relies more on timing, finesse and skill.

Steer wrestling is one of the most spectacular rodeo events and demands strength, courage and determination. The cowboy must jump from the back of a running horse onto the back of a steer that weighs up to 700 pounds and wrestle the steer to the ground.

“My goal is to build the rodeo bigger every year,” Brown concluded. “The community support is amazing.”