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High school athletes to compete in rodeo this weekend

Zane White of Bedford attempts to take down a steer during the Chute Dogging event at the Fayette County Free Fair. High school rodeo participants will participate in rodeo events at the 14 Acres Saturday and Sunday.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Local residents got a taste of rodeo activities during the Fayette County Free Fair and Saturday and Sunday they can get more than a taste.

While the timed rodeo events at the fair showed some of the sport’s events, the Indiana High School Rodeo Association comes to the 14 Acres horse and pony arena with its annual rodeo that includes some of the more thrilling events.

The purposes and aims of the association are to promote high school rodeo to keep the western heritage and lifestyle alive in America and the state of Indiana. It promotes the highest conduct and sportsmanship among our members, who are from high schools and junior high schools all across Indiana.

State Association Adult President Chris Bourdon of Sheridan said the association loves coming to Connersville and the community has supported the event during its previous trips.

The high school athletes will be competing in bareback riding, breakaway roping, steer wrestling, team roping, goat tying, saddle bronc riding, pole bending, tie-down calf roping, barrel racing and bull riding.

“In the modern era of rodeo, our cowboys and cowgirls have really become student-athletes,” Bourdon said. “They’re not just exhibitors by any means. A lot of our contestants spend hours and hours a week in the gym working out, just like a high school football or basketball player would.”

They also practice at home in their own arenas working on their horsemanship skills and trying to better the skills of their horse partners, he said.

This year when the participants arrive, organizers have scheduled a shoot Saturday morning for the Rushville Conservation Club shooting range.

Bourdon said it is a marksmanship shooting contest with contestants put into several different shooting positions and then scored.

“A lot of people don’t think of shooting in a rodeo context, and it’s not done at the park in Connersville, but part of rodeo is preserving our western heritage, western way of life,” he explained. “Shooting has always been a part of that.”

He did not know of the police shooting range adjacent to the Roberts Park amphitheater horse racetrack but next year might consider that as a location for the shoot.

Bourdon said by Wednesday morning, 50 contestants had signed up to attend the event, which is the first of the new high school year. After the local contest, the contestants will go to Brownstown, Huntington, Lanesville and Bartonia this fall. The usual season includes about 14 rodeos and will continue into June 2020.

The cowboys and cowgirls and their families and friends will begin arriving Friday evening and early Saturday morning.

The slack performance, which counts just as much as the performance, begins at 1 p.m. Saturday with the performance at 7 p.m. Sunday morning begins with a church service at 8 a.m. and another slack performance at 10 a.m.