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Championship Rodeo celebrates its 21st year

GATES — It’s been a staple of wholesome, family entertainment since the late 1990’s.

For the 21st consecutive year, Aaron Brown, along with his family as well as a small army of volunteers, will stage the Gates County Championship Rodeo.

Brown will once again open the gates to the Slo-Go Ranch, located on Paige Riddick Road in northern Gates County, welcoming thousands of rodeo enthusiasts, or simply those who are curious to see what all the hoopla is about.

The 2018 version of the rodeo is on tap for its traditional Mother’s Day weekend appearance, Friday and Saturday, May 11-12. Gates open at 5 p.m. both evenings with the action getting underway at 7:30 p.m.

Advance tickets are the same as last year: $12 for adults and $8 for children. Those prices increase respectively to $15 and $10 if purchased at the gate on the two days of the event. Kids ages 4-and-under are admitted free. Advance tickets are available at Starr Motors in Suffolk, VA, Brinkley’s Hardware in Gates, and McKeel’s Jewelers in Ahoskie.

“We hold this on Mother’s Day weekend because we want families to come out and enjoy the rodeo action and enjoy each other’s company,” Brown said.

He added that due to the family nature of the event, no alcohol is sold or allowed on the premises.

The rodeo includes a wide variety of food, vendors and attractions for youngsters.

Children can enjoy pony rides for a small fee. For those who dare, the event also features a mechanical bull for “arm-chair” rodeo enthusiasts. There is a small fee for this as well.

As a rodeo competitor himself, Brown said he didn’t stage the event for self-serving purposes.

“This is my way of giving something back to the community who has long supported my family and this rodeo,” Brown said. “I can’t do this alone…it takes the support of the community. Those who volunteer to help with everything from parking cars to selling popcorn are a tremendous help. We’ve developed a great network of volunteers over the years to help stage this event. Our many sponsors have been fantastic as well.”

The Gates Volunteer Fire Department and Gates County Rescue Squad will once again be on hand to service the rodeo arena and provide medical help if needed. They will also sell hot sausage, popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy and other items. The Gates firemen also conduct a 50/50 raffle nightly. Reynoldson Baptist Church will return to sell its mouth-watering funnel cakes.

“The firemen, rescue squad members and churches keep all the profits,” Brown noted. “There’s no way we could put on an event this big without their involvement.”

As an added treat, youngsters in attendance will have the opportunity to win a brand new bicycle on Friday and Saturday night.

“Greg and Lauren Casper of Gates have graciously donated two bicycles to give away at this year’s rodeo,” Brown said.

Additionally, a food vendor will be on hand offering a wide assortment of concessions.

Inside the arena, the rodeo participants will vie for thousands of dollars in prize money and fight for points in their season long competition. The event – which features bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, team roping, cowgirls’ barrel racing, breakaway roping, and wild bull riding – is sanctioned by the Southern Rodeo Association with competitors coming from throughout the United States and Canada.

“Our rodeo will feature many of the top 10 contestants of both the Southern Rodeo Association and the International Rodeo Association,” said Brown.

The 2018 events features Greek Ellick Jr. of Alabama as the Rodeo Clown. The Oklahoma native has been a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for 11 years. He grew up as a rodeo competitor and now tools his trade as the person responsible for putting smiles on the faces of the fans.

Kentucky native Trey Windhorst will serve as the Rodeo Announcer. He started his rodeo career as a bull rider.  After several years of riding bulls, he laid his bull rope down and picked up the microphone and began his career with his gift of gab.

Windhorst is a three-time Announcer of the Year in the Midwest Cowboys Rodeo Company. 

“We structure our rodeo as an event that can entertain all ages,” Brown stressed. “Over the years I’ve seen spectators from age 4 to age 80 having themselves a blast. I want to invite everyone to come out and experience what rodeo life is all about.”

The rodeo arena is located at 158 Paige Riddick Road just off US 13 at the North Carolina-Virginia state line. Signs will point the way.

For more information about the May 11-12 event, call 252-357-2412 or 252-209-1473.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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