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JACKSONVILLE, Texas – Cherokee County, Texas, has a rich heritage, and that’s just the way the people like it.
That’s also what makes everything special when it comes to the Tops in Texas Rodeo, is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17-Saturday, May 19, at Lons Morris College Arena. From activities around Jacksonville to the three performances of the rodeo, there is a lot to look forward to this time of year.
“The rodeo is just part of our tradition, and we’ve been doing this for 56 years,” said Penny Hanson, a longtime member of the volunteer committee that organizes the annual event. “The community loves it, and the volunteers love keeping that rodeo alive.
“We’re really about tradition here in Jacksonville.”
That is the lifeblood for many communities in east Texas, and it should be. That’s why it’s important to the region when the rodeo comes to town.
“We’ve got our downtown on board with all sorts of activities going on this week,” Hanson said. “We seem to be getting a lot of feedback on our rodeo, and there’s a lot of excitement that’s been building as we prepare for this week.”
That excitement comes when the first chute gate opens Thursday night. With it will come an explosion of entertainment, from the great animals and top-flight production of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo to the comedy of clown/entertainer John Harrison.
“We are so excited to have John at our rodeo,” she said. “I’ve seen him before, and he’s very entertaining. He’s going to provide some good, family entertainment and laughs.”
The week of festivities began Monday with a downtown street dance. Saturday will feature a full schedule, from the Men of Purpose Fishing Tournament to the weekend’s final performance of the rodeo. In between will be the Junior Rodeo for Exceptional Kids, the queen contest, the swap and shop downtown, the Outlaw Gunfighting Group and a chance for fans to meet the bullfighters and cowboys.
“The three cowboy churches of Cherokee County each put on a ranch rodeo,” Hanson said. “The top five teams from those rodeos will compete in one event each night during the intermission of our rodeo. That will be the finals for the ranch rodeo, and we hope that will be attractive for our local fans.”
That won’t be the only opportunity for locals; there also will be mutton busting and a calf scramble each performance for the children.
When it’s mixed with a championship-style production and the world-class animal athletes from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, it’s a winning combination for fans, sponsors and contestants.
“We’ve got some great and very loyal sponsors, and we appreciate them coming back every year,” she said. “When you work with Pete and his crew, they are outstanding and have some of the best stock around. You don’t have to worry about a thing when the crew arrives. They get here, and they take over.
“That’s when our people can breathe and relax, because we know our rodeo is in great hands.”