Mike Robertson chases down a steer in the roping competition Friday at the Rabun County FFA Alumni Rodeo.
Despite weekend rain showers, thousands of spectators cheered on contestants at the third annual Rabun County FFA Alumni Rodeo as they rode horses and bulls, wrestled steers and chased down calves June 7-8 at the Rabun Arena.
The event, conducted by the Bar W rodeo company, honored alumni of the Rabun County Future Farmers of America, and brought several local riders out to compete. Participants vied for a combined total of $10,500.
“I’ve been into horse racing since I was a child,” said Sarah Adams, a FFA instructor at Rabun County High School and a competitor in the barrel racing event.
Adams said the speed and finesse required for the event provides a challenge for the horse and rider.
“It’s a speed event and an adrenaline-type event,” Adams said. “It’s about the bond between you and your horse.”
The events also require the horse to focus through distractions like the crowd, announcers and music, Adams said. Adams ran a time of 15.5 seconds in the event, finishing fifth.
In addition to barrel racing, the rodeo hosted events including calf roping, steer wrestling and bull riding. The bull riding event drew Dillard native Hunter Peyton into the draw.
“The adrenaline is just a rush,” Peyton said.
Peyton, who competes in about 30 rodeo events a year, said the spontaneous nature of the event challenges the riders to adapt to a new animal each ride.
“Practice is based on how many times you get on the bull,” he said.
Peyton said a good bull riding run looks seamless and controlled.
“Everything is natural and flows,” Peyton said.
Peyton said riders are assigned bulls by rank, so riders have no idea how their animal is going to handle beforehand.
“It’s just the luck of the draw,” he said.
Adams said the FFA partners with both Bar W and the National Barrel Horse Association to sell concessions at the events, which help fund scholarships for young FFA members. She said the events raise enough funds to sponsor about two scholarships per year.
The rodeo also featured a chance for young cowboys and cowgirls to practice their cow-chasing skills by catching a ribbon on a calf for a cash prize.
Steve Cabe, director of the Rabun Arena, said he was impressed by the turnout.
“I love seeing people using the facility,” Cabe said. “There were lots of banners, and lots of sponsors this time. That’s a good sign.”
According to Cabe, about 600 people attended the rainy Friday event, and about 1,500 showed on Saturday.
More livestock events are in store for the arena this month.
“We’ve got barrel racing next weekend, and the last weekend in June we’ve got a cutting horse competition,” Cabe said. “It is free to the public.“
The National Barrel Horse Association hosts an event at the arena June 15-16, and the Wateree Cutting Horse Association comes to the arena from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 29-30.