At 103 years old, the Clovis Rodeo never fails to disappoint, hosting a sold-out show for the fourth year in a row this year.
Over 8,000 fans filled the grandstands at Sunday’s final performance. And on Thursday and Friday night, the grounds were so full that the Rodeo Association sold concert-only tickets to accommodate as many as 2,000 more fans who came after the rodeo performances of the day were over.
Sunday was special, however, for many local families of children with medical issues or physical disabilities. Prior to the finals performance, there was a Special Kids Rodeo, a joint conjecture with Break the Barriers that the Rodeo Association has done “for 17 years for the last eight years.” In other words, so many times they have lost count.
Ashley Pauls brought her son, Ivan, to the special kids rodeo who was celebrating his eighth birthday.
“He’s limited because of his health issues,” Pauls said. “He can’t play sports like normal kids, so this was a safe opportunity for him to try new things.”
The kids at this special event were given the chance to rope dummy steers, ride a “bucking machine” (which was really a giant rocking horse), and do “barrel racing” where a volunteer lead them around the barrel pattern on a horse. The horses and volunteer horse handlers were from Heart of the Horse therapy ranch.
To participate in these events, each child had an actual cowboy or cowgirl from the Clovis Rodeo help them. Nellie Miller, one of the cowgirls, was waiting for the short round of barrel racing later in the day and agreed to help out.
“The smiles on these kids faces are priceless,” Miller said. “Kids love animals. For them, this is a one day thing, but for us it’s everyday. So this is a really neat event.”
Gary Bower, the president of the Clovis Rodeo Association, said the event is something that everyone enjoys. During the event, the association also presents a $1,000 check to Break the Barriers.
“It’s our favorite thing we do,” Bower said of the event. “We’re planning to keep it going for a long time.”
He laughingly remarked that the event sometimes cuts into rodeo time because it takes a while to convince the kids to leave the arena. Eventually, the adults win out and the rodeo finals begin.
Fans from all over come to the annual Clovis Rodeo. Nancy Purvis from Tustin, California was there for the fourth time this year.
“I have cousins here, so I come visit with them and see the rodeo,” Purvis said with a smile. “I love the bull riding, the bareback broncs and the saddle broncs.”
The rodeo is truly a family affair. Chuck Rigsbee, one of the rodeo directors this year, holds the rodeo as a family tradition himself. His father was part of the rodeo, and his brother is on the board with him.
“The whole sport of rodeo is family oriented,” Rigsbee said. “That makes it unique.”
Even competitors like Wyatt Maines have rodeo in the family. Maines’ father and brother got him into bareback broncs, where he placed second for the day and sixth overall.
“They [his father and brother] both did it and I thought ‘Why not?’” Maines said, shrugging and cracking a small smile at the memory. “The first time I got on I thought ‘I’ll never do this again.’ But then I actually gave it a try and now I’m hooked.”
Competitors come from all over the world to compete in the Clovis Rodeo, with some coming from as far as Australia and Brazil. Even some of the livestock are from out of the country.
The Clovis Rodeo is one of only 20 Gold Card Tour rodeos in the nation, and as such attracts top cowboys, cowgirls, and livestock. But it isn’t the competitors that keep the rodeo going.
After 103 years, the Rodeo still looks to its fans – and their families – to support it. If the competitors are the body of the rodeo, the fans are the heart. Without them, the show won’t go on.
If you missed this year’s rodeo, watch for tickets to go on sale for the 104th annual Clovis Rodeo in 2018 in the coming weeks.