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Rodeo benefits Relay for Life

AHOSKIE – In its first major test as a host facility, the Ahoskie “Buy-Out” area received rave reviews this past weekend.

With a seemingly endless line of horse trailers, campers, trucks and cars, the area hosted the annual North Carolina High School Rodeo Association’s (NCHSRA) “Rodeo for a Cure.”

Judging from the reaction of rodeo organizers and local officials with the Hertford-Gates Relay for Life, the event was a huge success.

Carolyn Pierce, a Guardian Care employee whose Relay for Life team donates the rodeo proceeds to the fight against cancer, reported a net income of $3,270.50.

“We grossed that amount last year,” Pierce said in regards to the 2006 Rodeo for a Cure. “This was a great year for us, one that would not have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors and without the support of those who attended.”

The bleachers were packed on Saturday night. The Sunday afternoon crowd wasn’t as numerous, but organizers were pleased with the attendance on a hot afternoon.

NCHSRA officials were also pleased with the Ahoskie event.

“This was one of the best shows I’ve ever produced,” Jay Hinson, a NCHSRA board member and stock contractor, said. “The grounds were in great shape and the local folks here in the Ahoskie area really had things well organized.”

Hinson offered praise for Mari Maleur and her Guardian Care Relay for Life team. Relay for Life was also represented by Hertford-Gates event chairman Artie Johnson. He used a portion of the rodeo to inform the crowd of the efforts of Relay for Life as they join with the American Cancer Society in educating the public about the warning signs and treatment opportunities of cancer.

On Saturday night and again Sunday afternoon, white and purple balloons were distributed to the audience who then released the colorful orbs in honor and memory of cancer patients.

Perhaps one of the main reasons for the success of the weekend event was the promotional work performed in advance by Cecelia “Cissie” Jones, a Hertford County High School senior and the 2006 NCHSRA Queen, along with the reigning 2007 NCHSRA Queen, Lindsey Harper.

“The rodeo is Cissie’s senior project and she is a real go-getter,” Pierce said. “She and Lindsey visited area schools, rest homes, nursing homes and boy and girl scout troops to promote this event and their efforts were very noticeable judging from the great attendance we had this year.”

Pierce said Jones was seen out early Saturday morning greeting all the rodeo contestants and their families, making sure they had what they needed as well as serving as a “travel guide” as she showed the visitors her home town of Ahoskie.

Additionally, Pierce thanked the event’s title sponsor n Mr. and Mrs. Ronnie Parker and Jeff of Red Barn Farm Tack Shop in Gates. Ray Felton of Metal Tech in Murfreesboro was thanked for his donation that helped pay for the temporary bleachers.

A total of 41 NCHSRA Senior Division competitors pre-registered to participate in the Ahoskie rodeo. The majority of the participants, along with their families, came from the western part of North Carolina. Those high school-age competitors n perhaps the next generation of professional rodeo stars n took part in events such as calf roping, bareback riding, steer wrestling, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, pole bending, break away roping, goat tying and team roping.

With the exception of two injuries sustained during Sunday’s bull-riding event, the weekend was generally a safe one for the competitors.

Other local sponsors of the rodeo were as follows:

“Gold Buckle” n Commercial Ready Mix, Guardian Care of Ahoskie, Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald;

“Silver Spur” n Baker, Jones, PA, Brown’s Trucking, Godwin Country Meats, Hog Slat, Inc., Jernigan Oil & Propane, Nucor, Robertson Equipment;

“Bronze Ponies” n Ace Hardware, Ahoskie Eye Care, Doctors Brown & Brown, Green-Bryant-Joyner Agency, Mizelle’s Discount Drug, Movie Time, Rawls Insurance Agency, Swain’s Tile & Floor Covering;

In-Kind Sponsors n Charlie Pierce, Deborah Bryant, Piggly Wiggly, Stuart White, Town of Ahoskie and Trey Byrum.

The NCHSRA, formed in 1986, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of sportsmanship, horsemanship and character in the youth of the state. It was created to give high school students the opportunity to participate and compete in this unique and challenging sport. Although not recognized by high school athletics, the NCHSRA offers a rodeo program that sets high school rodeo apart from other varsity sports.

Members are fully insured, supervised and guided by adult experts. Competitors have an opportunity to acquire scholarships and grants for their educational interests.

NCHSRA members compete at state levels for local recognition and the top four contestants in each event from each state qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo and the Wrangler Junior High School National Finals, conducted annually in July. Over 1,500 contestants from 44 states/provinces compete for national titles, awards and scholarships.