The Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast is asking locals to dig out their cowboy hats and oversized belt buckles for a weekend full of rodeo fun.
This isn't a second-rate rodeo. The fundraiser has been sanctioned by the Professional Cowboy Association and is produced by Bo Campbell Productions.
"We're very fortunate to be working with Bo Campbell," said rodeo event coordinator Yvonne Freeman. "He's been producing rodeos for 30 years."
Over 300 rodeo contestants will be traveling from nine different states to compete in the rodeo. Cowboys and cowgirls will have the chance to rank in one or several of the eight events including: bareback riding, saddle bronco riding, steer wrestling, team roping, calf roping, breakaway roping, barrel racing and bull riding. Those with top scores in each timed event will win cash prizes and have the chance to compete in the finals. Local talent will also have the opportunity to participate during the two-day event.
The idea for the 2013 Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast Inaugural Rodeo came from coordinators wanting to present something unique to the area, Freeman said. The closest rodeo is in Bonifay.
This will be the first big event for Jessica Jarosz, the new president and CEO of the Club.
"We've had a few small events since my arrival, but nothing of this caliber," Jarosz said. "It's something a little different for the Emerald Coast and benefits kids who need our support the most. And, of course, I can't wait to watch the professional cowboys and cowgirls riding and roping."
There will be plenty of entertainment beyond the competition with special guests, Sierra Coward, the 2013 Miss Teen Rodeo Florida, and CarrieAnn Clements, the 2013 Miss Rodeo Florida Princess. Rodeo clowns, face painting and games will make the weekend non-stop fun.
Perhaps one of the most exciting shows of the event will be trick rider, Kristy Lei Harris. Accompanied by her horse, Jaime, Harris performs all sorts of acrobatic stunts while riding.
"She's known throughout the Southeast," Freeman said. "She does handstands, rides under the horse and all sorts of stunts."
The non-profit organization relies solely on contributions from generous individuals, corporations and partner funding agencies such as The United Way. Support for the Boys & Girls Club is not hard to come by in the local communities, Freeman said. Both Okaloosa and Walton County Sheriff's Office have generously sponsored the rodeo in order to give free admission to elementary-aged children when accompanied by an adult.
"It shows a true dedication to the Boys & Girls Club and the causes we support," Freeman said.
Any proceeds from the event will go toward supporting targeted programming for kids ages five to 18 during non-school hours that focus on youth development in three priority outcome areas: academic success, healthy lifestyles and good character and citizenship. The Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast has seven clubs located in Pensacola, Milton, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, South Walton and DeFuniak Springs. Over 500 youths are served in South Walton alone. Currently, South Walton's club is undergoing on 427 Greenway Trail reconstruction and will open in mid-summer.
Child Abuse Prevention Month
The month of April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. In acknowledgement, The Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast has focused in-house training to make sure the Youth Development Professionals are well-equipped to recognize potential signs of an abusive home life and how to proceed with the appropriate steps. BGCEC partners with agencies such as Shelter House and the Children's Advocacy Center to bring such specialized training. "Consistent, targeted training such as this is just another benefit to our youth development program versus a traditional daycare," Jarosz said. If you'd like to learn more about Child Abuse Prevention Month, visit frombluetobetter.org.
Want to go? The 2013 Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast Inaugural Rodeo will be held April 5 and 6 at Hammock Bay, 74 Great Hammock Bend, Freeport. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and show starts at 7 p.m. Daily tickets are $6-$12 and weekend passes are $10-$20. Tickets and information are available at www.bgcec.com.