The first ever Crowder Roughrider Rodeo drew a large crowd Friday and Saturday nights at the newly named Roughrider Arena, and featured more than 200 competitors from near and far.
As spectators filed into the former Ozark Saddle Club Arena, located next to the Newton County Fairgrounds, they weren't just paying to see the Roughrider Arena's first rodeo, but also to help Crowder College students afford an education.
Eric Norris, rodeo promoter, said the majority of money raised from the rodeo will go toward Crowder College scholarships.
Students from Crowder's agriculture department were on hand both nights, helping out and selling raffle tickets.
"I think that that's really great what they're doing here, because I wouldn't be able to be going to school right now if I hadn't gotten scholarships," said Crowder freshman Bailey Pfitzner, a general agriculture major. "I haven't heard anyone hesitate about helping out."
Norris said it was still too soon to tell how much money the rodeo had raised, though based on the crowd, organizers would be pleased with the outcome.
"It's been excellent, really beyond our expectations for our first year," Norris said. "We had over 200 contestants enter for the two nights. For the standard of rodeo, we've surpassed all averages."
Among Saturday night's contestants was local cowboy Kelly Wortman, 23, of Neosho.
Wortman said he began participating in rodeos around the age of 16, following in the footsteps of his grandfather.
"It's nice to have one right out the back door," Wortman said. "It's nice not having to worry about the traveling, fuel prices these days it kind of gets expensive and plus your fees and hotel and everything else like that it adds up."
After taking a year off, Wortman, who was scheduled to bareback ride Saturday, decided to return to the rodeo scene at home in Neosho.
"I've been riding since I was about 16 and I decided I want to try my luck again," Wortman said.
Norris said though the event was in its first year, organizers had worked to put on a professional rodeo.
"We've got several past champions of ACRA (American Cowboys Rodeo Association) out tonight," Norris said Saturday evening. "We set out for a high quality, professional rodeo and that's what we've got. Past champions come to the rodeos that are big and important, so that kind of helped us measure up to know that that's what we set out to do and we've done it."
Norris said the organizers plan to make the Roughrider Rodeo an annual event.
And organizers say they plan to make next year's rodeo even better.
Steven Gussert, of the American Cowboys Rodeo Association, said planning for a rodeo begins long before the event.
Page 2 of 2 - "Everybody thinks that it starts when we get here, I met with the committee in March, and we've been working on this rodeo together since March of this year," Gussert said. "It's a year-round process. The good committees like this will start within a week of this rodeo for next year's rodeo, to make it bigger and better than this year's rodeo, and with the committee I've got here, I guarantee it'll be twice as good next year."