Sure there will still be cowboys, bucking broncos and, of course, nationally known entertainers at the 2003 Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo but there are some changes being made by this year's Jaycee organizers. Changes, they say, should make the 51st annual event more enjoyable for the public.
The changes begin with the beginning of the rodeo. This year's starting time is 7 p.m. Aug. 6-9, a half-hour earlier than in the past. Also the Jaycees have slated the star's performance as the finale for each evening.
"These were changes designed to improve the flow of the rodeo and the ending time," said Rob Clay, this year's Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo general chairman. "We've talked to other rodeo committees who have made similar changes and they said they have worked well for them. We are anxious to see how it will work here."
One things rodeo fans won't see this year is bull fighting. While the event has its fans, Clay explained the event is no longer sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and no longer has Wrangler as a national sponsor.
"It has been a crowd favorite but we were having trouble getting bull fighters to come that are willing to fight since it was no longer sanctioned," said Clay. "Without any support from the national organization this was becoming increasingly hard to do."
But there will still be plenty of other action, including the bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing and bareback riding, the Jaycee official added.
According to Clay, the Jaycees are already putting in long hours at the rodeo grounds to prepare for the annual event. "Usually after the Fourth of July weekend our workers will double in number with more Jaycees coming to help along with the Exhausted Roosters (retired Jaycee members) and even volunteers. That is when we kick it into high gear. You will see a lot of dust flying out here."
Leading their list of things to do this year are the addition of 14 to 15 more stalls to the women's northside bathrooms and reconfiguration of the calf pens on the eastside. Also the Jaycees will replace some of their wooden fences with metal fencing and are continuing beautification efforts on the rodeo grounds, Clay said.
Some of that dust at the rodeo grounds may come from those in line for their tickets. Chad Crow, who is serving as the 2003 rodeo ticket chairman, said sales are already going well.
"Compared to last year's outstanding sales' performance we are about six points behind, which in reality is very satisfactory," Clay said.
He predicted the rodeo would sell out Friday and Saturday night. Saturday, he continued, should be particularly popular with veteran country music star Chris LeDoux headlining the evening. Also scheduled to perform are: Wednesday, Brad Paisley; Thursday, Trick Pony; and Friday, Chris Cagle.
Currently the box office only has bleacher tickets available, however Crow offered an insider tip that area residents might find box seats available closer to the actual rodeo dates as some patrons turn their box seats back in if they don't plan on using them on a particular night.
"But there are still plenty of good seats available," he emphasized. "The prices are the same as last year, which makes the rodeo a good value. For a family of four the cost is well below any other recreational activity. And where else can you get a rodeo and big name entertainer all for one price?"
The box office is currently open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with Saturday hours beginning after the Fourth of July holiday.
Crow and Clay encouraged area residents to show their support of the Jaycees by buying tickets to the rodeo.
"We are here year after year to provide family-oriented entertainment but even more important all our money goes back to the community in the form of donations to local groups and needs," said Crow.
Added Clay: "And it is all done by volunteers. So if you see a Jaycee, give him a pat on the back."