Shrine Rodeo lassos local crowd despite weather
There is only one way to describe this weekend's Abdallah Shrine Rodeo: Muddy.
The more than five inches of rain during the weekend left the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds a soggy mess, causing a problem for the more than 300 riders and performers.
"According to Bennie Beutler, the stock contactor, the mud was about 10 to 12 inches deep on Thursday," said Gary Bennett, chief rabban for the Shriners. "My wife was out in the arena when they crowned the queen and she lost both shoes in the mud. We had to dig her shoes out of the mud."
To alleviate the situation, the Shriners laid out sand and gravel dust before Friday and Saturday's competitions to make it easier on the riders and the animals.
Despite the arena conditions the rodeo was back for a second year in Tonganoxie for a weekend of bull thrashing and bronco bucking as the contestants competed for $31,000 in prize money.
The rodeo weekend began Thursday night when the new queen of the rodeo was crowned. The 2007 queen April Brown, presented the new queen, Alyssa Morrison, a floral bouquet before members of the Shriners attached the queen's tiara on her hat.
"There was so much competition that I really had no idea," the Bonner Springs resident said. "I wasn't expecting this at all."
First runner-up for queen was Emma Glaspy and second runner-up was Jennifer Keefe.
After the crowning ceremony and for the rest of the weekend, the crowd was treated to rodeo competition staples such as bullriding, in which competitors attempted to stay on a bull for eight seconds and then are scored on their performance, and bronc riding with and without saddles, which is similar in nature to the bullriding. There was also mutton bustin', a crowd favorite event in which children as young as 4 years old hang on to a sheep for as long as they can.
It was Ty Pope's third year as a mutton buster. His mother, Jennifer Pope, said the 6-year-old was excited to compete this year
"He wouldn't be doing it if he didn't love it," she said.
Jennifer Pope said Ty would return next year because Ty loves to ride and because of all of the respect she has for the Shriners for all of the work they do for children.
The arena bleachers were not full Thursday or Friday night, but Bennett said on Saturday, the rodeo was at or near capacity.
Bennett also said they expect to be coming back to Tonganoxie for a third year, and they hope to be having an even bigger event as it will be the rodeo's 50th anniversary.
The Shriners of North America operate 22 hospitals that specialize in giving free healthcare to children. Bennett said Tuesday it wasn't yet determined how much money had been raised over the weekend.