The 72nd Sallisaw Lion's Club IPRA Rodeo kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Thursday with the rodeo parade, followed that night by the first of three rodeo performances. The rodeo itself begins at 8 p.m. each night, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at the rodeo grounds.
Marley Abell is the Lions Club Rodeo chairman. He is in his 13th year helping put on the rodeo, and has been chair for the rodeo committee for "six or seven years." He said he continues because the Lions Club gives at least 95 percent of the money earned at the rodeo back to the community.
"The big thing for me is I know it is making a difference, and it makes a difference for those who really need it. We have very, very little overhead." Abell said last year the Lions Club gave $12,000 to Eastside Elementary School for new playground equipment. About $3,000 a year is used to provide eyeglasses to those who cannot afford them. The Lions Club also has a special affection for foster children, and holds a Christmas party, with gifts, every year for local children in foster care.
The Sallisaw rodeo is popular entertainment for many. Abell said, "We've had people from all over the world come to the rodeo. We've had people from England, Australia, etc." Abell said he believes when tourists driving through get to Oklahoma, they look for Western culture events to attend, and sometimes for local rodeos.
"Last year we had a couple from New York. He was a retired New York highway patrolman. They parked their camper at KOA and hung out with us for the whole rodeo. It was interesting," Abell recalled.
New this year at the rodeo, but not new to rodeo, is trick riding. Two performers will be on hand, Haley Ganzel, (photo above) who also has two movie credits to her resume, "Cowgirls 'n Angels" in 2012 and "Dakota's Summer" in 2014. She will be joined by an 11-year-old trick rider, Madison Schala. Both will perform nightly.
The drill team, Rodeo of the Ozarks Rounders, which has appeared at the Lions Club Rodeo in the past, will return this year.
A new announcer will be on hand, Monty Stueve, and the hilarious rodeo clowns will be headed up by Dusty Myers. Adding even more excitement is the wild horse racing for adults and the mutton bustin' and calf scramble for the kids. In the calf scramble, the ribbon on each calf's tail is worth $5. Abell said the clowns conduct the calf scramble and, from the arena each night, will invite all kids under the age of 12 to come on down and try to catch a calf's ribbon.
Of course at the center of the rodeo are the riding and roping events, from bareback and saddle bronc riding, to roping, to steer wrestling, and bull riding. Some of the best cowboys in the country will be competing.
At the end of the evenings, at about 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, dancing will be held and will feature Libby Starks and Bandit on Friday and Sherman Connelly and War Pony on Saturday.
Admission to the rodeo and all its entertainment is $7 for adults and $5 for children age 6 through 10 each day. Children under age six will be admitted free.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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