Get Ready For Rip-Roarin' Rodeo Fun Under The Rim

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Pull on those favorite jeans, grab your Stetson and dust off your boots -- it's rodeo time in the Rim Country.

This year, Payson is celebrating its 121st Annual World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo from Aug. 18 to Aug. 21.

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The excitement of the unexpected is the cornerstone of the sport of rodeo. Any second, something unpredictable can happen. It's an age-old conflict between man and beast. Cowboy gladiators take on nearly wild cattle and horses in the bull, bareback and saddle bronc riding and try to best unruly calves and steers in team and tie-down roping and steer wrestling. It's a thrill Payson has been providing audiences from near and far for 121 years.

The week of the rodeo will consist of several activities, traditionally known as "August Doin's."

The annual Women's Professional Rodeo Association Cactus Circuit Rodeo launches events the evening of Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Payson Event Center. Admission is a can of food to benefit area food banks.

The first performance by members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association will be at 7 p.m. Friday. The first of four mutton bustin' contests will be held as part of the program. This event features children riding sheep.

Special performances by the One Arm Bandit & Company's Amanda Payne will be part of the evening's entertainment.

Miss Rodeo Arizona Amanda Jenkins, other rodeo queens and special guests will open the night's events with a Grand Entry. Announcer Johnny Pope will guide the audience through the competitions, assisted this year by an electronic scoreboard made available to Payson by the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co.

There will be rodeo performances taking place at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, with the finals at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo Parade will march down the Beeline Highway at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20. The route will be from West Rancho Road to the intersection of the Beeline Highway and Highway 260.

Rodeo performances will feature several events, including team roping, tie-down roping, bareback riding, saddle-bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling and barrel racing.

Vendors, crafts and face-painting also will be available at the rodeo. One of the special offerings among the vendors is the Payson Supply Line, an organization that ships "comforts from home" to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The booth will feature photos and letters sent back to the program in thanks.

The more traditional nature of the shows connects both the audience and participants to Payson's rodeo roots, Rodeo Board Chairman Rex Hinshaw said.

"It's not in a coliseum, it's in an open-air rodeo grounds. Its size allows spectators to get closer to the action, up close and personal with the cowboys," he said.

Fans also can meet and receive autographs from the cowboys after the events.

Pat Johnson, who is in charge of membership, finance and the rodeo at Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, said crowds will always come back.

"It's the love of the sport. It's a celebration of our Western heritage," Johnson said. "Payson is rodeo."

As part of the festivities, Payson's official historians, Jinx and Jayne Peace Pyle are hosting an old-fashioned Rodeo Reunion from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 20 at the Tonto Apache Reservation gym, south of the Mazatzal Casino. Special guests are noted rodeo performers from the past, Lynn and Nancy Sheppard. Other past rodeo competitors from the area are also expected to attend, and all will be available to sign copies of the book, "Rodeo 101, History of the Payson, Arizona Rodeo 1884-1984," written by Jinx and Jayne last year. The books will be for sale at the event, which will also feature live, old-time music and a barbecue.

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