BAKER — The Old Spanish Trail Rodeo is returning to Baker for the 28th year and plans to bring family-friendly entertainment in addition to traditional rodeo events.

The rodeo — April 7-8 at the Barnhill Arena, 5503 Highway 4 — is the largest fundraiser for the Baker Area Recreation Association. BARA runs the Barnhill Arena and other amenities focused on an equestrian lifestyle.

The rodeo will feature over 200 riders from across the southeast United States performing events such as roping, barrel racing, bull riding and bulldogging.

The event, part of the National Cowboy Pro Rodeo Association circuit, allows participants to compete for a spot in the regional finals — and a purse exceeding $50,000.

The rodeo will include two groups known as the Hurricane Hookers and the All-American Cowgirl Chicks.

The Hurricane Hookers pit three riders against Mexican fighting bulls, according to BARA President Mark Todd. These bulls are aggressive and take aim to whatever is in front of them, he added. The riders will compete for over $2,000 in prize money.

The All-American Cowgirl Chicks are a Texas group of experienced riders who perform trick riding and stunts.

“They do everything at a very high rate and high pace,” Todd said.

The Cowgirl Chicks will also host a meet-and-greet from noon to 2 p.m. April 8 at the Ace Hardware, 702 N. Ferdon Blvd.

The rodeo aims to engage children by offering two scramble events each night for different age groups. Children aged 5 to 8 get their chance to catch chickens in the main arena while those aged 9 to 12 can catch pigs.

For the sixth year, the rodeo has collaborated with Baker School to encourage youth reading with a program called “Reading for the Rodeo” for kindergartners through fifth-graders. Students reading a set number of books independently receive a voucher for entry, popcorn and a drink. Over 225 students received a voucher last year, according to Todd.

Attendees on Saturday, April 8, can wear pink to support breast cancer awareness. Each year, BARA donates $1,000 to a local breast cancer awareness chapter.

The event’s organizer said there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

“We want people to go away enjoying it as a family event that was more than just a traditional rodeo,” Todd said.

Admission gates open 5 p.m. April 7 and 8, with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. Todd encourages people to arrive early as seating is first-come, first-serve and some have to view from a standing-room-only area.

Adult tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the gate. Children 5 to 12 pay $7 in advance and $10 at the gate. Children under 5 get in free.

Advanced tickets can be purchased at these locations:

Baker Parts and Supply
Gator Cafe
Days Tire
Baker Feed and Country Store
Tractor Supply
Blackman Country Store
Farm World (Laurel Hill)
Taco Town (Baker)
Baker Farm Center
Ace Hardware (Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, Bluewater Bay, Fort Walton Beach, Niceville)
Samuel’s Roadhouse
Azteca Mexican Restaurant
Horse Around Feed and Tack (Mossy Head)
Wooten Lumber
Pic N Sav (Baker)
Coastal Bank and Trust (1139 Industrial Drive in north Crestview)