Rafter Z Rodeo returns to the West End Fair
Trick Roper Kegan Mayo performs various tricks for a nearly packed grandstand audience at Saturday’s Rafter Z Rodeo at the West End Fair. STACI GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Eight-year-old Savannah Bergman of Northampton lassoes a practice bull head during the Little Buckaroo Rodeo on Saturday evening at the West End Fair.
Rodeo Entertainer Rusty McCray rolls a barrel into the arena at the West End Fair Saturday evening. He stood inside it during the bull riding event and told the audience it was the safest place in the house to be.
Cowgirl Katie Smith presents Old Glory to a nearly packed arena at Saturday’s Rafter Z Rodeo. Smith also performed in a few events during the rodeo.
The Rafter Z Rodeo returned Saturday evening to close out the 98th annual West End Fair.
“The fair board is great to work with. They are trying to make this an annual event. We had a good turnout last year and are expecting a great turnout this evening — maybe even sell out the show,” said Shawn Zrowka, owner of the rodeo company based in Millmont.
Zrowka has been producing and promoting professional rodeos since 2002. He was part of the Carbondale Area High School rodeo team as a teenager.
He loves the family atmosphere of the rodeo business, as well as the ability to see new towns, meet lots of new people and be around the animals.
“Our biggest thing is keeping the Western tradition alive. Not just the rodeo, but the American cowboy as well,” he said.
Dozens of kids age 12 and under came down to the arena for the Little Buckaroo Rodeo, which began shortly after 6 p.m.
On one side, Trick Roper Kegan Mayo showed them how to lasso a practice bull head with a rope. On the other side, they ran around three barrels and then back to high-five Rusty McCray, a rodeo entertainer dressed as a clown.
“I ride horses and am excited to see that tonight,” said 8-year-old Savannah Bergman of Northampton as she practiced lassoing. “I have been riding my whole life and have been to one rodeo before.”
Then it was time for a handful of kids, with helmets and parental permission, to attempt to ride sheep.
“Everyone loves the Little Buckaroo Rodeo, especially the Mutton Busting,” said Zrowka. “The kids get on 200 pound sheep and ride for 6 seconds. They don’t get a score if they fall off before the 6 seconds are up.”
Throughout the evening, McCray and announcer Joe Coalter comically bantered back and forth, sometimes picking on an audience member or themselves. They also informed the audience what each participant was about to do and how the scoring works.
McCray hid inside a barrel, with his chest and head the only parts visible during the opening bull riding event. He said it was the safest place in the house to be, and he is no dummy.
Saturday’s rodeo included six events: barrel racing, team roping, bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping and breakaway roping.
“Most of the contestants here are in the top 10 standing of the International Professional Rodeo Association,” said Zrowka. “Cowboys and cowgirls from all over the world are here.”
It was a sanctioned rodeo, and everyone competed for points. Contestants were timed.
Mayo did a few rope tricks with varying lengths of rope. As the rope got longer, the difficulty of the trick increased.
One trick included a dance move called the “Tennessee Two-step.”