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Yee-haw: It’s rodeo time!
Limestone’s 25th Rodeo Month to include parade, competition, monkeys herding sheep

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

ATHENS — Got a hankering to slip on those Wranglers, doff a cowboy hat and saunter around in boots?

There’s no better time than May to succumb to that yearning because it heralds the start of Rodeo Month in Limestone County.

That means street dances, rodeo queens, bucking horses, enraged bulls, barbecue meals and a parade.

It’s enough to have you screaming, “Yee-haw!”

“Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been in a daze because it’s hard to believe this marks our 25th year,” said Sheriff Mike Blakely.

Blakely started the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo to raise money for items like additional patrol cars. The public welcomed the event like a cowboy welcomes the sound of the dinner bell. It grew to more than 4,000 in attendance and to spinoff activities that take place throughout the month.

“Our rural lifestyle is disappearing, and folks like to go back to those days when horses were the main form of transportation,” Blakely said. “This is something anyone can enjoy, especially families.”

Miss Limestone Rodeo

Cowgirls can compete for the Miss Limestone Rodeo title. It takes more than good looks to rope the crown. Horsemanship is part of the competition.

A former rodeo queen started the Exceptional Rodeo that allows mentally and physically challenged children and adults to experience the Wild West.

Volunteers help them ride horses, learn to rope, get their faces painted and take hay rides.

“The Good Lord has given us this opportunity, and it’s one of my favorite days,” Blakely said. “Most who come probably would never have any other chance to ride a horse, and when you see them smile, it touches you.”

The volunteers hold riders on gentle horses as someone leads the horses by rope around the arena.

There also are events for those who want to learn how to rodeo. Each year the sheriff hosts a bareback and saddle bronc clinic.

“The bucking horses are my favorite event,” Blakely said. “It’s a tough sport and jars you more than a bull. You have to be pretty tough to do it. It’s not for wusses.”

Those who prefer a more sedate rodeo experience can enjoy the western wear show, street dance or parade.

The grand marshal for the parade is Capt. Johnny McDonald, who has served with from the Sheriff’s Department after 26 years. McDonald has served as a deputy, drug investigator and patrol captain.

“He’s one of my most reliable employees when it comes to getting ready for the rodeo,” Blakely said.

“He sells ads and tickets for the saddle we give away, and he’s also a good public servant.”

Laughter is as much a part of rodeo activities as dust is to a bull rider’s boots. Monkeys who dress like cowboys are a new addition to rodeo night, Blakely said.

“They ride Australian shepherds and will herd sheep,” the sheriff said. “Who wouldn’t enjoy that?”

So get out those jeans, boots and cowboy hats and come along for the ride.

Limestone Rodeo

May 4

Miss Limestone Rodeo entry deadline. Get applications online, at the Sheriff’s Department or Preston’s Western Wear. Contestants receive a buckle and participate in the parade and are recognized at the rodeo. Winner receives a custom-made Running P saddle and scholarship money.

May 5-6

Bareback and Saddle Bronc Clinic, 9 a.m.-until, Sheriff’s Rodeo Arena on Alabama 99, pre-register for $100.

May 12

Best Bucking Bar-B-Q Cookoff, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sheriff’s Rodeo Arena, free or $5 to judge in people’s choice.

Music, arts and crafts and buggy rides. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Limestone County.

Rodeo Parade, 1 p.m., from arena to the Limestone County Courthouse Square, back to arena.

Ty Herndon in concert with Shannon Brown, 8 p.m., Athens State University’s Beasley Field, $20 in advance or $25 at the gate. Boys and Girls Club hosting concert to celebrate rodeo kickoff and as fundraiser. Bring a lawn chair.

May 14

Preston’s Western Wear Rodeo Kickoff, 5 p.m., at the store on U.S. 72 at Interstate 65, free.

Will be events for kids and horseback rides.

May 15

Street Dance, 7 p.m., Limestone County Courthouse Square. Includes live band, line dancing and western fashion show.

May 17

Slack for team roping contestants, 6 p.m. gates open with 7 p.m. start, Sheriff’s Rodeo arena, $5.

May 18

Exceptional Rodeo, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sheriff’s Rodeo Arena, free. This is a rodeo for special needs children and adults with rides, music, food and games.

Opening night of the 25th annual Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo, gates open at 6 p.m. with the Kids’ Gold Rush at 7:30 p.m. and opening ceremonies at 8 p.m., $10 for adults in advance or $15 at gate and $8 for children in advance or $10 at the gate. Will be bareback and saddle bronc riding, calf roping, break-away roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, chuck wagon races, bull riding, rodeo clown acts and a kid’s calf scramble.

Get tickets for free pony rides for children at Family Security Credit Union branches in Athens, Decatur and Hartselle.

May 19

Last night of the 25th annual Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo, gates open at 6 p.m. with the Kids’ Gold Rush at 7 p.m. and opening ceremonies at 8 p.m., $10 for adults in advance or $15 at gate and $8 for children in advance or $10 at the gate. Will be bareback and saddle bronc riding, calf roping, break-away roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, chuck wagon races, bull riding, rodeo clown acts and a kids’ calf scramble.

Get tickets for free pony rides for children at Family Security Credit Union branches in Athens, Decatur and Hartselle.

  • Get more information and registration forms for events at www.limestonesheriff rodeo.com.

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