Fair rodeo lassoes experienced riders
Tough animals, pro cowboys
The heat was worth it for the estimated 1,000 fans who turned out at the sun-scorched Leavenworth County Fairgrounds last week for the fair's rodeo.
The rodeo, held at the grandstand, featured some of the best cowboys and orneriest animals ever to visit Tonganoxie, said Jeff Dickinson, member of the Leavenworth County Fair Board..
"We had a real good crowd," Dickinson said. "It was the best rodeo we've put on in five years."
The rodeo began at 8 p.m. Thursday when members of the Watkins C Ranch Synchronized Drill Team rode into the arena and showed off their horsemanship to the tune of several patriotic songs
The 20-member squad dazzled those attending with difficult routines pulled off without a hitch.
The pre-rodeo show was capped by a performance by funnyman John Hayden and an appearance by Miss Rodeo U.S.A.
The excitement grew as The Star-Spangled Banner was played over the loudspeaker, every word bringing the crowd closer to a frenzy. When the last note had been played, the crowd roared and was immediately hushed by the announcer as he introduced the first event: bareback riding.
Cowboy smells of leather, dust, sweat and manure filled the then silent air.
A bull bellowed somewhere as the first horse was turned loose from its shoot.
Bucking, rearing, twirling and fighting every bit of the way, the bronc tried to buck free of its rider.
But rider Scott Davis stayed on for the eight seconds, and judges Joel Chaffin and Rick Chaffin awarded him a score of 72 points. A good score, but not good enough to earn him any money at this rodeo.
Up next was Raymond Cooper from Hughes, Ark. He stayed on his horse for the count and was awarded 76 points good enough for second place and $230.
The big money winner in bareback riding was Toby Drennan from Buffalo, Texas, who topped off his horse and earned a score of 77 points. He won $383.
The other money winners in the event were Scott Mitchell from Cooper, Texas, and Jeff Konitzer from La Cygne, Ks. The two cowboys tied for third place and earned $76 each.
Up next was calf roping, and the action was just as spectacular. Oklahoma cowboys dominated this event, sweeping up the top three places.
Winning the battle of Oklahoma was Ken Bailey of Henyetta, who roped, threw and tied his calf in a blazing time of 8.3 seconds.
Bailey was the 1996 International Professional Rodeo Association champion, so it wasn't a surprise that he won the Leavenworth County Fair Rodeo.
What was surprising is that he beat six-time champ Walt White from Okmulgee.
Turning in an impressive time of 8.6 seconds, White came up just short and had to settle for second this go-around, but he still won $230 not bad for 8.6 seconds of work.
Rounding out the top three was Terry Crow from Miami who had his calf tied up in 10.6 seconds.
Saddle bronc riding
In saddle bronc riding, Cord McCoy of Tupelo, Okla., beat Ron Hogin from Bon Aqua, Tenn., by one point to take first and walk away with $460.
Hogin won $306.
Steer wrestling was another event dominated by the cowboys from Oklahoma.
In the event, 11-time world champion Dale Yerigan stunned the audience by taking down his monster in 4.5 seconds. He won $240.
Cody Brecheisen from Wyandotte, Okla., took second, winning $240.
Dan Bailey of Sallisaw, Okla., tied with Jimmy Roper from Oktaha, Okla.,for third place. Each earned $80.
In perhaps the most competitive event at any rodeo, the barrel racing proved to be dazzling, as the women of the arena demonstrated that rodeo is not just a man's sport.
Showing the best high-speed horse control and maneuvering at the rodeo, these women gave it their all in an event where success and failure are determined by hundredths of a second.
Winning the event was Betty Roper of Oktaha, Okla., who cleared the course in 15.74 seconds and won $465.
The four-time national champion narrowly edged second-place rider Shauni Leftwich, who completed her run in 15.76 seconds. Leftwich earned $348.
Tracy Nowlin from Vinita, Okla. took third place with a time of 15.81 seconds, winning $232.
The final money winner was Bobbie Jordon from Camden Point, Mo. who finished in 15.86 and won $116.
In the highest paying event in rodeo team roping, Justin Nowlin, Vinita, Okla., partnered up with Shawn Kreder, Sperry Okla., to take home first place and more than $1,000.
The two dropped their calf in 6.1 seconds.
The team of Terry Crow, Miami, Okla., and Jory Levy, Oaks, Okla., caught their calf in 6.9 seconds, earning $380 each.
The pay-out for this team roping was more than it is at other rodeos, fair officials said.
"Usually the winner splits the $500," Dickinson said , "This year we had $500 added money to pay off the header and the heeler both."
Winning the bull riding competition was Juan Miller from Jones, Okla., who turned in a score of 80 points. He won $448.
During the rodeo, local cowboy Chad Sparks climbed aboard a bull that bull bust-out winner Terry Deere, Cushing, Okla., had declined to ride.
Sparks stayed aboard for the eight-count but did not win any money because the ride was an exhibition and not part of the event. It was impressive though.
"If it'd been his bull he'd have won fourth place," Jeff Dickinson said.
Participating in the rodeo were Tonganoxie roping teams of Travis McGraw and Bobby Douglas and Jeff and Tim Monroe.
Tonganoxie's Tracy McGraw, Talette Ford, Sherie Peden and Angela McGraw joined Leavenworth's Denise Bardroff and Julie Storer in representing Leavenworth County in barrel racing.
Josh Reischman represented Tonganoxie in saddle bronc riding, and Mark Saving represented McLouth in bareback riding.