Annual rodeo returning to Evening Breeze

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   Just the thought of this weekend's rodeo action in Stoney Creek may be revolting to Willie Nelson. Not only are many mommas letting their babies grow up to be cowboys, but several parents on the high school rodeo circuit also letting their daughters become full-fledged cowgirls.
   Once again the Creek will be hosting the annual Virginia High School rodeo and junior rodeo at the Evening Breeze Arena. Despite being named after the Commonwealth of Virginia, the circuit incorporates most top rodeo athletes of Upper East Tennessee.
   "Quite a few kids have piled in," said one of the event's organizers Doris Blevins about this weekend's activities. "There have been a lot of kids interested in participating. We already have over 30 kids in the junior and pee wee divisions and 20 to 25 for the high school events."
   There are several examples of young rodeo stars from our immediate area. They include Travis Blevins, a junior at Elizabethton High School, and his longtime team roping partner Josh Johnson, a senior at Happy Valley.
   Another great example is barrel racer Christian Potter, a fifth-grade student at Happy Valley Middle School. Brian, Alan and Jessie Tipton, all of Limestone, are also scheduled to participate this weekend.
   There will be a full slate of rodeo events: mutton busting, barrel racing, bronc riding, calf riding, calf roping, team roping, pole bending, steer wrestling and bull riding.
   One concern has been the rising costs of hosting such an event. The event organizers would like to reward the local kids for their efforts and are asking for sponsor involvement. They want to see rodeo athletes given the same kind of awards, that kids who participate in the stick and ball sports receive.
   "We have had some great sponsors," said Blevins. "We're able to have prizes for all the kids to compete for. They've got a buckle for each high school event winner and the average winner in the junior high and pee wee divisions have gift bags.
   "People have given us donations, but we hope to get more support. We have most of the expenses taken care of, but we still need costs to cover the Rescue Squad and the EMT's. Keep in mind, the kids have to pay entry fees and their way of getting there."
   Some of the local businesses mentioned as major contributors who made things possible include Citizens Bank, Elizabethton Federal, Elizabethton Herb & Metal, Hoof Beat, D.J. Feed in Mountain City, Stacy's Carpets, Hyder's Carpet, Carter County Motors, Friendship Ford and Decanter Machinery of Johnson City.
   The riders and ropers involved in this rodeo will earn points for the state finals event to be held in Rural Retreat, Virginia at the end of this month.
   While that is a short trip from Elizabethton, the top finishers in that rodeo qualify for the National Finals to be held in Farmington, New Mexico.
   Like other sports, rodeo offers many valuable lessons to the junior athletes from competition to sportsmanship to making friends. With its unique dependency on the livestock, it offers another lesson not seen in other athletic endeavors.
   "The kids learn the responsibility of taking care of the animals," said Blevins. "Rodeo animals are usually well cared for. The animals have to be in good health to perform and the kids learn to take care of the ones that they work with."
   If you are interested in attending the rodeo, follow the signs up Stoney Creek to Evening Breeze Arena. Starting time for Saturday's action will be 6 p.m. with the second round to resume at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
   For those who might be interested in sponsorship, it is still not too late.
   You can look up the National High School Rodeo on their website at www.nhsra.com. There is a link for each state including Virginia. You can also call 542-5628 or 542-4705 for sponsorship opportunities.