The floodgates on summer fun have opened and the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo is rushing toward the Rim Country with more than 200 contestants registered to participate.
Contestants will be arriving from all over the West to take part in the fun and festivities.
Among the competitors will be current and past national and world champions in the traditional rodeo contests of bareback riding; barrel racing; bull riding; saddle bronc riding; steer wrestling; team roping; and tie-down roping.
Those champions include team roper Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson; team roper Jake Barnes, Scottsdale; team roper Derrick Begay, Seba Delkai, Ariz.; barrel racer Leigh Ann Billingsley, Phoenix; barrel racer Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz.; team roper Mel Coleman, Phoenix; barrel racer Penny Conway, Payson; barrel racer Jolee Lautaret, Kingman; bull rider Jason McClain, Lewis, Colo.; team roper Nick Sarchett, Phoenix; and bull rider Lee Woolsey, Payson, Utah.
There are several local contestants registered to participate in addition to Penny Conwa, along with a couple of cowboys with local connections, like Penny’s son, team roper Kyle Conway of Casa Grande and team roper Wyatt Althoff of Anthony, N.M., the grandson of Ken and Nancy Althoff, son of Brent and nephew of Payson High pole vault coach Bo.
Other local competitors are saddle bronc rider Jason Amon; barrel reacer Chancy Brown; and barrel racer Teri James;
The spring rodeo, presented by the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee, is May 19, 20 and 21 at the Payson Event Center. The livestock for the event is from Salt River Rodeo.
The Cactus Series – Ladies’ Barrel Racing opens the festivities Thursday, May 19. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the performance is at 7 p.m. Admission is a can of food for Rim Country food banks.
The rodeo is at 7 p.m., Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21. Gates open at 5 p.m. and admission is $14 for those 13 to 64; $12 for those 65 and older; and $10 for those 8 to 12; children, 7 and under, are free. Tickets are available at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, all area Circle K’s, Bill Armstrong Pawn in Star Valley and the Payson Roundup office. There will be $2 discount coupons in the Roundup newspaper. Tickets may also be reserved on line at www.paysonrimcountry.com or www.ticketforce.com
The Friday night performance is dedicated to the Tough Enough To Wear Pink campaign to benefit breast cancer research and patient support programs. The Pro Rodeo Committee will donate $3 for each cowboy contestant wearing pink and $1 for each audience member in pink.
Saturday’s rodeo is the Patriot Performance to honor returning, wounded and fallen veterans. All active military personnel will be admitted free of charge on Saturday night.
Those planning to attend the May 21 show are encouraged to wear red, white and blue.
Following both the May 20 and May 21 performances, there will be a rodeo dance at the historic Ox Bow on West Main. The John Eric Band will provide the music starting at 9 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m.