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story.lead_photo.caption File Photo/CHARLIE KAIJO Ryder Kirk, 5, of Prairie Grove rides in the mutton bustin' event during the 74th annual Rodeo of the Ozarks in 2018. Mutton bustin' starts at 6:30 p.m. daily during the 75th annual Rodeo of the Ozarks, coming up June 26-29 in Springdale. Up to 25 children may participate in mutton bustin' each night.

Rodeo season is a time for families to don their cowboy hats and watch as cowboys and cowgirls compete in impressive feats of endurance alongside their four-legged athletes. While the events are exhilarating to watch, the opportunity for children to participate in the rodeo is even more exciting.

Northwest Arkansas residents have no shortage of available rodeos each summer, from county events such as the North Franklin County Fair Rodeo in Ozark to regional events such as Springdale's annual Rodeo of the Ozarks.

For families, rodeo events such as the grand entry, mutton bustin' or the calf scramble are good opportunities for kids to get involved.

Sarah Halmes, president of North Franklin County's Rodeo Board, says opening events like the grand entry and mutton bustin' are family favorites. Mutton bustin' is similar to bull riding or bareback riding, with the difference being children ride sheep instead of bulls or broncos. There is usually a weight limit of about 60 pounds for the sheep's safety.

"The crowd loves it," Halmes says. "We have a lot of participation with that."

The North Franklin Rodeo, which took place June 7-8 this year, features two grand entries: a stick horse grand entry followed by the main grand entry.

The stick horse grand entry is geared toward kids who are too young to ride, or who don't have a horse and have always dreamed of having one, Halmes says. Halmes also says that Miss North Franklin County Rodeo Queen leads the stick horse procession, which the children love.

The main grand entry features mounted riders circling the arena while displaying colorful flags and banners. This not only gives the audience a chance to see all of the participants but also is an exciting welcome to the rodeo.

Rick Culver, the executive director for the Rodeo of the Ozarks, says he thinks young rodeo goers always enjoy the bareback riding and barrel racing. Both are exhilarating events that showcase not only a rider's skill, but also a horse's athleticism.

Culver and Halmes both says that bull riding probably remains the most popular event at each rodeo.

"You're only looking at eight seconds," Halmes says. "But it's an action-packed eight seconds."

Judy Canant, secretary for the Arkansas Rodeo Association, says she thinks children who like animals enjoy participating in the calf scramble, in which kids ages 12 and younger chase calves with ribbons on their tails. Many rodeos have this event, as it is both entertaining and allows the children another chance to be a part of the performance. The first three kids to return with a ribbon at the Rodeo of the Ozarks calf scramble win a cash prize.

Halmes says the North Franklin County Fair Rodeo tries to have a lot of events for children that allow them to participate in the rodeo free of charge. The junior rodeo clown contest is another example of such an event. In this contest, children are judged as they come through the rodeo parade, which travels through downtown Ozark. The best clown receives a trophy belt buckle, she says.

"It seems to be kind of unique to our rodeo," Halmes says.

While the animals and competitions are fun, Canant says the best part of the rodeo is the people.

"You not only become friends, but family, with the people you meet while rodeoing," Canant says. "Sometimes, you are closer to your rodeo family than your real family."

FAQ

Rodeo of the Ozarks

WHEN — Gates open at 6 p.m. June 26-29

WHERE — Parsons Stadium in Springdale

COST — $7-$38

INFO — 756-0464, rodeooftheozarks.org

NAN What's Up on 06/16/2019

Print Headline: Rope 'Em Early

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