The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office will host its 40th annual Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo on Friday and Saturday in Athens.
According to Michelle Williamson, a committee member for the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo, the rodeo is the largest of its kind east of the Mississippi River. It is sanctioned by the International Professional Rodeo Association and is produced by the Lone Star Rodeo Company.
The event will be at the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo Arena on Highway 99.
The rodeo’s main events will begin at 8 p.m. both nights, though the doors will open at 6 p.m. The marketing and public relations coordinator for the rodeo, Blake Williams, said he advises attendees to get there early, as seats are first-come, first-serve.
Athletes from all over the country and even the world will participate in a handful of classic rodeo competitions such as bareback bronc riding, calf roping, break-away roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing and bull riding.
Events are taking place in Athens all week leading up to the rodeo on Friday.
Rodeo week began with a street dance on Monday, and a slack competition for overflow competitors will take place Thursday at 9 a.m. Admission for the slack competition will be $5, and gates will open at 8 a.m.
There will be a special needs rodeo on Friday morning, sponsored by Allen Brown Heating and Cooling, American Detention Services and Turner Beverage Company of Huntsville. Individuals with special needs from local schools and the Birdie Thorton Center will participate in rodeo activities and eat lunch.
“This is probably the most special part of the week for me,” said Williamson. “They’re able to participate in roping, horseback riding, petting zoos, face painting [and] karaoke. They also have a chance to ride on the Lions Club Train, take hayrides and also mule and buggy rides… This is something that they all look forward to every year.”
Each night, the rodeo will last roughly two-and-a-half hours.
Williams said the facility is very close to downtown Athens. “Lots of people go downtown and shop during the day," he said. "After they shop, they eat at local restaurants.”
There will also be concessions at the rodeo.
Since Limestone County is a dry county, there will be no alcohol at the event.
Williamson said she encourages families to bring their children.
“This is a family-fun event," said Williamson. "There’s something for everyone that’ll catch your attention. The kids love to see all the animals. There are activities before the rodeo that allow the kids to participate in them, where the kids have a chance to win some money.”
Williamson said one of the children’s activities is a chicken chase, where kids go out in the ring and chase chickens. Children can win money and even keep the chicken if they catch one.
“[In the] sport of rodeo, [there’s] never a dull moment,” Williamson said.
The rodeo is sponsored by many local businesses, including Lynn Layton, Flanagan Lumber Company, Pepsi of Decatur, Combined Public Communications, Visit North Alabama and Halsey Food Service.
Daily tickets are $17 for adults and $12 for children under 12 years old at the gate. Advance tickets can be purchased on the rodeo’s website for $2 less. All proceeds benefit the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office to help provide equipment and training.
“[The rodeo is] just a really fun family atmosphere,” Williamson said. “That’s something that has really just been worked on for years to really provide for the community… It brings in people from everywhere that keep coming back.”
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