NEWBERRY ‒ For the fourth year in a row, Newberry has gone western. On the evenings of Nov. 19 and 20, the rodeo came to the city’s Country Way Town Square. Over 2,400 spectators came over the two-day event, most decked out in jeans, boots and cowboy hats, to watch rodeo cowboys and cowgirls compete in competitions for cash prizes and bragging rights.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboy (PRCA) sanctioned event featured competitions in Team Roping, Tie Down Roping, Steer Wrestling, Saddle Bronc Riding, Bareback Riding, Bull Riding and Barrel Racing. The top four riders in each competition won cash prizes.
The PRCA is a professional membership-based organization that sanctions approximately 600 rodeos annually with more than 30 million fans in the U.S. The PRCA’s membership includes more than 7,000 cowboys and performers. Unlike most other professional sports where contestants are paid salaries, cowboys generally pay to enter each rodeo. If they place high enough to win money, they can make a profit, but if they don’t, they’ve actually lost their entry fee and any travel expenses. Every entry is a gamble, pitting the chance for loss and physical injury against the chance for financial windfalls and athletic glory. Most Rodeo cowboys compete in multiple events per year.
The Newberry Rodeo event was not just a rodeo competition as other activities were offered including young children competing in a Mutton Bustin' contest, featuring young children competing to ride and hold on to a sheep for as long as possible. Most of the children fell off quickly, but several managed to hold on as the sheep trotted around the ring. The winner of the Mutton Bustin' was Kalani Hardy. The Country Way Town Square Rodeo also gave away two bicycles during the event. The winners were Ashlynn Berry and Eli Fleming.
Before any of the competitions took place, the PRCA honored the 13 soldiers killed in the Afghanistan withdrawal as 13 flag-draped horses with empty saddles were led through the arena as each name was called.
The event is organized by the Newberry Lions Club to raise funds for the charity projects the club sponsors such as diabetes research and expanding access to care and prevention. The club provides funding and awareness of programs to help fight pediatric cancer, access to vision screenings, recycle eyeglasses, build clinics and support the blind and visually impaired through technology and vocational training programs.
Since 2018, Tripp Norfleet has sponsored the rodeo, covering all costs in cooperation with the Lions Club organizing and staffing the event. In its first year, Norfleet put up $30,000 to cover the events costs, charging admission and supplying vendors and food trucks. That year the event saw a profit of about $1,800 donated to the Lions Club and Norfleet donated an additional $2,500.
“We had a good event this year and every year it grows” said Christianna Norfleet, of Norfleet's Country Way Town Square. “We had over 100 sponsors who provided funding for the event and had 2,400 spectators fill all the bleachers, plus vendors selling food and western themed items. We try to make this a fun event for the whole family and community.”
The cost for an evening’s entertainment and rodeo competitions was $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 5–12 and most spectators considered it a small price for the western themed event.
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