Cowboy Up Rim Country, It’S Rodeo Time

Riders explode from the chutes Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Payson Event Center


The Cactus Women’s Professional Rodeo Association event will be held Thursday at Payson Event Center. The event is open to women of all ages, even if they don’t have a WPRA card.

The Cactus Women’s Professional Rodeo Association event will be held Thursday at Payson Event Center. The event is open to women of all ages, even if they don’t have a WPRA card. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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It’s time for Rim Country to Cowboy Up. The 2012 Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo, an annual celebration of the Rim’s Western heritage takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 17, 18 and 19 at the Payson Event Center on Highway 87, across from the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino.

The event Thursday night is the Cactus Women’s Professional Rodeo Association events — barrel racing, tie-down roping and team roping. Gates open at 5 p.m., with the contests starting at 7 p.m. Admission is one can of food or more for the food banks in the Rim Country.

While there will be members of the WPRA competing for points, the event is also open to women of all ages, even if they don’t have a WPRA card. So, expect to see some dazzling displays of horsemanship, speed and grace.

Friday night is the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink performance, where cowboys and fans alike, along with the arena crew, wear pink to help local breast cancer support groups. For all wearing pink, $1 per fan and $3 per contestant is donated to the local groups.

Saturday night will be the rodeo’s tribute to honor wounded and fallen veterans.

Both Friday and Saturday night, the gates open at 5 p.m., with the rodeo starting at 7 p.m.

There are 228 contestants listed on the preliminary participant sheets. Some competitors have world and national titles and standings, according to rodeo boss Bill Armstrong. Among the top ranked folks to be looking for: team roper Jake Barnes of Scottsdale; team roper Derrick Begay of Seba Delkai, Ariz.; barrel racer Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz.; bareback rider Tom McFarland of Bowie, Texas; and bareback rider Wes Stevenson of Lubbock, Texas.

A few competitors with Payson roots will also be among the contestants: barrel racer Whitney Alderson; team roper Wyatt Althoff; bareback rider Jason Amon; team roper TJ Brown; team roper Kyle Conway; team roper Hal Earnhardt III; and barrel racer Teri James. Not all live in Payson — Althoff claims Oracle, Ariz. as home, but his parents and grandparents have both lived in Payson; Conway makes his home in Casa Grande, Ariz., but his mother is noted rodeo horsewoman Penny Conway and she and her husband have deep Rim Country roots; Earnhardt is from Queen Creek, Ariz., but his family has long been owners of the Little Green Valley Ranch east of Payson.

Most of the 200-plus contestants come from around Arizona and New Mexico, but you will also see competitors visiting the Rim Country from Utah, Texas, Nevada, Wyoming, North Dakota and Nebraska. One competitor is coming all the way from Newberg, Ore. But the champion traveler to the 2012 spring rodeo is bull rider Cody Heffernan, who is from Singleton, New South Wales in Australia.

With more than 200 competitors, not all can compete in the evening contests, so some draw “slack time” and ride during the day. Armstrong said slack will start at 8 a.m., Friday, May 18 at the Payson Event Center. He expects there will be 46 barrel racers, 17 ropers and nine pairs of the team ropers running in slack. The public can come out and watch these competitions free of charge, Armstrong said.

Tickets for adults 12 to 64 are $14; seniors $12; and children, 8 to 12, $10 (those 7 and under are free). All active military will be admitted at no charge with proper identification.

Tickets may be reserved online at www.payson rimcountry.com and www.ticketforce.com or purchased at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, Bob’s Western Wear and the Circle K stores in Payson, as well as Bill Armstrong’s Jewelry and Pawn in Star Valley.

For additional information, call rodeo boss Bill Armstrong, (928) 474-9440.

Rodeo royalty returns to Rim Country

The contests to select Miss Rodeo Arizona and Miss Teen Rodeo Arizona return to the Rim Country this week.

The events will feature appearances by Miss Rodeo Arizona Audrey Hall and Miss Teen Rodeo Arizona Brittney Hamilton, as well as Miss Turquoise Circuit Brittney Truman. Hall was scheduled to arrive Tuesday to make visits to area long-term care facilities and meet with some of the contest sponsors.

The public events begin Friday, May 18.

The tentative schedule of events open to the public include:

Friday, May 18: 1 p.m., Payson Event Center, horsemanship, no charge; 3:30 p.m., personal appearances and autographs, Bob’s Western Wear; 6:45 p.m., dinner, informal modeling and introductions, Lomona Conference Center, Mount Cross Lutheran Church, 601 E. Highway 260, $25 per person.

Saturday, May 19: 11 a.m., lunch, fashion show, state speeches and silent auction, Lomona Conference Center, Mount Cross Lutheran Church, 601 E. Highway 260, $25 per person; 7 p.m., Gary Hardt Memorial Performance at the Payson Event Center where Miss Rodeo Arizona contestants will be presented for final judged event.

Sunday, May 20: 9 a.m., continental breakfast, awards and crowning of Miss Rodeo Arizona 2012 and Miss Teen Rodeo Arizona 2012, Lomona Conference Center, Mount Cross Lutheran Church, 601 E. Highway 260, $15 per person.

For information or ticket reservation contact: Amanda Jenkins at mrazsec@gmail.com or Julie Jenkins at mraznd@gmail.com.

There are three young women competing for the Miss Rodeo Arizona title: Jayme Smith, Avery Williams and Tonia Yazzie; and two in the contest for Miss Teen Rodeo Arizona: Lauren Meehan and Samantha Miles.

The reigning royalty

Miss Rodeo Arizona 2011 is Yuma’s Audrey Hall, the second daughter of John and Cindy Hall and sister to Kelsey, Mariah and Sabrina. She has spent the last year traveling the country representing the state and serving as the First Lady of Professional Rodeo in Arizona.

She competed in Las Vegas representing Arizona at the December Miss Rodeo America pageant and brought home a “Top 10” buckle, along with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Now that her reign is coming to an end, Hall will be going back to school to finish her bachelor’s degree in marketing and public relations through Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa. Then she plans to work in this field and pursue a master’s degree, so she can be a professor in marketing at some point.

Growing up she raised 4-H club lambs, and played the viola and cello in the orchestra. She also played basketball, volleyball, softball, swam and danced. Her “horse sense” came at a young age and she has grown up loving to ride and compete in different timed events through YPBRA and Westside Riders. Through these organizations and holding local queen titles Hall found her passion and knew her future had to be in the equine industry.

She still works on the timed event side of the arena and has high hopes of running barrels in the WPRA and is excited to stay involved in the Miss Rodeo Arizona Organization so that girls in the future have just as much of a fun growing experience as she did this last year.

Miss Teen Rodeo Arizona 2011 is Brittney Hamilton of Ahwatukee, Ariz.

Hamilton, sponsored by Golden West Cowgirls Drill Team, is a student at Desert Vista High School and has future plans to study anesthesiology in medical school. She has been riding horses since she could sit up and hold on. One of the first things she did when she learned how to talk, was to ask for a horse.

“I believe I can achieve greatness through leading by example, practicing ethical standards in everything I do, being a responsible citizen and always doing my best while helping others achieve their best. I believe the title of Miss Teen Rodeo Arizona has given me the opportunity to put my ‘best’ to work for rodeo,” she says.

Miss Turquoise Circuit Brittney Truman is a Scottsdale resident and has been involved in rodeo her entire life.

Currently, she runs barrels in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and continues to rope with her dad and uncles.

While her job as Miss Turquoise Circuit consists of traveling thousands of miles between the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Turquoise Circuit of Arizona and New Mexico promoting the sport of rodeo and the Western way of life, Truman stays busy behind the scenes as well. She is currently studying equine science and sports medicine in college and has worked with the Justin Sports Medicine Program, which specializes in the rehabilitation of rodeo cowboy injuries.

“I would like to thank the 2011 Miss Rodeo Arizona, Audrey Hall, for everything she has done. She has been the world’s best traveling partner and has done an excellent job representing Arizona throughout the past year, not only in the arena but as a spokeswoman, role model, and friend to all.”

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