The 56th Annual Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo is set for Aug. 6-9, and each year the event attracts more than 40,000 people to Sikeston. Online ticket sales indicate visitors come from surrounding states and others including New Jersey, Utah, Idaho and Alaska, said 2008 Rodeo Chair Ron Payne.
"For a community our size to put on an event of this magnitude is pretty unique. We go to conventions and such, and all of the other rodeos of our stature come from much bigger cities. ... Those people are always floored we're able to do it," said Payne, a 15-year Jaycee.
The club is comprised of about 120 members plus Exhausted Roosters (retired members), Payne said.
"It takes each and every one of them -- plus volunteers -- to put the rodeo on each year. The (YMCA) swim team works one of the concession stands. The Boy Scouts help, and 4-H members help in the Sponsors Building," Payne said. "It's really a community effort."
And all of the proceeds from the rodeo are given back to the community. Over the years, the Jaycees have donated in excess of $3 million back to the community, Payne estimated.
"The rodeo benefits not just the people who receive the donations, but all the businesses in the area, too," Payne said.
According to a study conducted about five years ago by Sikeston-Miner Convention and Visitors Bureau, the rodeo's direct economic impact on the region, which includes Sikeston, Cape Girardeau and surrounding communities, was in excess of $8.5 million per year.
"That's due to the foot traffic in retail establishments, restaurants and hotels," Payne said.
The Jaycees' service to the community is two-fold, Payne said.
"It's to take the proceeds of the rodeo and turn around and give them back to the community. The other primary function is we're putting on such a labor-intensive event that we take our young men -- our members -- and mold them into community leaders," Payne said.
Members are also rewarded on a personal level.
"I think when you see the kids developing at the Kenny Rogers Children's Center and are making strides forward to overcoming their problems, that's what it's about. When you see somebody on a dialysis machine at the Jaycee (Renal Dialysis) Center, that's why you do it," Payne said.
Michelle Fayette, executive director of the Kenny Rogers Children's Center in Sikeston, said the community is fortunate to have a group like the Sikeston Jaycees. She said every year the Jaycees are among the top three contributors to the Center's telethon -- an annual event for nearly 30 years.
"I'm amazed by them in regard to the fact that they're young business men so they're building their careers. Most have families and they commit to doing that rodeo once a year. It's a huge undertaking to be one of top 10 rodeos in the nation," Fayette said about the Jaycees.
And it's the Jaycees who were responsible for bringing Kenny Rogers to Sikeston, Fayette noted.
"They actually had Kenny Rogers came to town as rodeo entertainment, and they gave him a tour of the Center. At that time, the entertainment stayed for the duration of the rodeo, and the Jaycees would find things for them to do during their stay.
"Kenny was so impressed with the limited resources (at the Center), he came back and did a series of four benefit concerts -- and that is how we have the building we have today," Fayette said.
So for four years, in addition to the annual rodeo, the Jaycees took on the project of an additional concert each year, Fayette said.
"The Jaycees have been very generous to Missouri Delta Medical Center, and we appreciate their generosity," said Blair Moran, director of Missouri Delta Medical Center Foundation in Sikeston.
Since the Foundation formed in 1991, the hospital has received $181,000 in donations from the Jaycees.
"They gave the lead gift of $55,000 to build the (Sikeston Jaycee) Renal Dialysis Center, and they also purchased a machine for the dialysis unit for $18,000 -- and that's a lifesaving treatment," Moran said.
Through the years the Jaycees donated $45,000 to construct the O'Bannon Family Care Center for obstetrics services; $36,000 to help purchase a system that enables the Cardiology department staff to put all EKGs on computer disks; $11,000 for monitors in the Intensive Care Unit; and $5,000 to the Radiology department.
"We would have had a difficult time funding these projects if there were no Jaycees," Moran said. "The Jaycees make a very positive impact."
The Jaycees were also one of the founding supporters of the YMCA of Southeast Missouri when it began in 1995 and continues to offer support today, said Jeff Partridge, executive director of the YMCA facility in Sikeston.
"Our board of directors is made up of lots of people who've been involved with the Jaycees. Not only have the Jaycees been financial supporters of the Y, but they've been active on an individual basis," Partridge said.
With regard to the YMCA's current capital venture, the Jaycees provided $500,000 to the building project, and was one of the lead gifts, Partridge said.
"That was one of the first gifts we received," Partridge said. "I think a big reason we were able to be successful later on in the campaign was because of the Jaycees.
"They're recognized as leaders and supporters of so much in the community that when they get behind something, people tend to jump on the bandwagon, and it's what gave our campaign momentum and one of the reasons we were able to do what we did."
Partridge said he can't think of a time in all of the stages of the YMCA when a need -- whether for volunteer support or financial support -- wasn't met with help from the Jaycees.
So in a couple of weeks when local motorists may find themselves driving through congested traffic in Sikeston, just think back to the beginning of the rodeo, Fayette said.
"Remember why they do it and what good comes out of what they're doing," Fayette said. "It's a week or two weeks out of the year when you can just say thank you and go home and appreciate the benefits."
And besides, Fayette said: "We know the back roads."
Slack will be Aug. 4 and 5 with tickets for $5 at the gate. For more information or to make Rodeo ticket purchases, call 1-800-455-2855 or visit www.sikestonrodeo.com