CRESTVIEW — Traditions will mix with new elements for the 24th annual Old Spanish Trail Rodeo on April 12 and 13 at Baker Area Recreation Association's Barnhill Arena.
Ticket prices are $12 in advance at bakerarena.com for adults and $15 at the gate. Children’s tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the gate. Events begin at 7:30 p.m.
Changes precede silver anniversary
"This is our 24th annual rodeo so that's important to us. We are one step away from the big 25," Mark Todd, president of the Baker Area Recreation Association, said. "We've made a number of changes this year and some of them were hard to make ... but this year, we are changing it.
"We are going to (Professional Cowboy Association) ... they are actually the largest rodeo circuit in the Southeast and east of the Mississippi (River). They have over a thousand members in their organization as far as participants."
Todd expects 200 cowboys and cowgirls nightly and said the rodeo will pay close to $35,000 in prize money, with first-place winners in each event earning between $1,000 and 1,500.
The new stock contractor is Poplarville, Miss.-based Herbert Theriot/5T Rodeo Company.
In addition, the rodeo will have a new starting time.
In the past, the rodeo has started at 8 p.m., but this year's event gets underway at 7:30 p.m.; gates open at 5:30 p.m. each day.
The association has added 380 seats to the arena above the bull chutes, providing prime seats for fans who want to pay a few dollars extra. Seats overlooking the bull chutes cost $20.
Rodeo clown Rudy Burns and announcer Jim Poole will return for another run in Baker. Last year's featured act, the All American Cowgirl Chicks, will join them.
"We've never had anybody that I can recall that made such an impact on the crowd as the Cowgirl Chicks," Todd said. "They touched their audience. They were involved with the audience.
"They worked the area prior to the rodeo for us. They went out and did a meet-and-greet for us at Ace Hardware. We are working with Ace Hardware to do another meet-and-greet."
The rodeo will recognize a Wounded Warrior each night and present him or her with an American flag used in the Cowgirl Chicks’ show.
Classic rodeo events — ranging from women’s barrel racing to men’s bull riding — will be featured at this year's event.
Quickly becoming a staple is the Reading for the Rodeo program, which gives tickets to elementary school children from Baker School, Laurel Hill School, Northwood Elementary and Bob Sikes Elementary who read a specific number of books.
Todd expects the rodeo will provide 700 tickets to young readers; sponsors will help offset the costs.
Sponsorships are still available for the rodeo, Todd said. See bakerarena.com for more details on sponsorships.
Rodeo proceeds will fund the Baker Area Recreation Association complex’s operations.
"We don't realize it, but when you sit back and look at it, it's a big event for our area," Todd said. "It goes to a good cause for anybody that has any interest in the equine or that type of event.
"It's a great cause and it's a good event for the area."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524