Big weekend set for young rodeo stars

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   The top young cowboys and cowgirls from this area and some of the best from the state of Virginia are scheduled to be in town this weekend taking part in the Virginia High School Rodeo Association and Junior Rodeo Assocation event to be held at the Evening Breeze Arena.
   With participants from both the high school and junior high ranks, there are plenty of rodeo events on tap including breakaway roping, calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling (bulldogging), bullriding, steer riding, mutton busting, pole bending and barrell racing.
   "There's a lot of work making sure things are right," said Doris Blevins, one of the event's organizers. "You have to get the right calves fit to their ages and make sure the ground is worked up for them just right. If we get fan support around here, it will help. Performing in front of a big crowd makes them want to come back."
   Since most of the organized Tennessee high school rodeos are on the western end of the state, the cowboys and cowgirls in this area belong to the Virginia Association. There will be added pressure this weekend as it is the last rodeo on the fall schedule, before things get cranked back up next April.
   Leading the local contingent are Travis Blevins and Josh Johnson. Blevins, a junior at Elizabethton High School will be taking part in three events - team roping, calf roping and steer wrestling. While it is his first year of bulldogging, he is an accomplished roper.
   Johnson, a senior at Happy Valley, is Blevins' partner in the team roping and one of his toughest rivals in the calf roping competition. Both of the young men were good enough last season to go to the High School National Rodeo Finals in Farmington, New Mexico.
   They can't rest on their accomplishments. Plenty of others are wanting to best their times in the team roping, led by a part of identical twins, Will and Seth Cassell from Jonesborough. Another local cowboy expected to make noise this weekend is bullrider Bryan Hinch out of Greeneville.
   Blevins says that Ann Van Huss, the owner of the Evening Breeze Arena, deserves a lot of credit for helping to cultivate the local talent by opening her facilities for practice to the local kids.
   On the girls' side, a promising newcomer looks to be Christian Potter. Potter, a student at Happy Valley Middle School, competes in barrell racing, pole bending and goat tying. The competition between the age 12-14 barrell racers should be one of the most exciting parts of the rodeo.
   However, the rodeo is not exclusive to the local kids. There are participants as far away as Richmond scheduled to come to Stoney Creek and compete.
   There are still sponsorship opportunties available to any local businesses wanting to become a part of this event.
   If you are interested in attending this year's high school rodeo, the action starts Saturday at 3 p.m. with the final day of competiton to kick off 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.