Gates County Rodeo salutes moms

Published 10:45 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A cowboy, minus his trademark hat, lassos a calf during last year’s Gates County Championship Rodeo. Competitors will return this year to the annual event, set for May 11-12 at the Slo-Go Ranch located off US 13 just south of the state line.

Annual event planned this weekend in N.C.

By Cal Bryant
Special to the News-Herald

The Gates County Championship Rodeo has followed a Mother’s Day weekend theme since its inaugural event 14 years ago.

Now in its 15th year, why mess with success?


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Aaron Brown will open the gates once again to his horse ranch located on Paige Riddick Road in northern Gates County, welcoming many hundreds of rodeo enthusiasts, or simply those who are curious to see what all the hoopla is about at the Slo-Go Ranch.

The 2012 version of the rodeo will be held Friday and Saturday. Gates open at 6 p.m. both evenings, with the action getting under way 90 minutes later.

Advance tickets are priced the same as last year — $10 for adults and $6 for children. Those prices increase by $2 at the gate. Kids ages 4 and under are admitted free. Advance tickets are available at Blake Ford in Franklin, the Red Barn Farm Tack Shop and Brinkley’s Hardware, both located in Gates, and McKeel’s Jewelry in Ahoskie’s Newmarket Shopping Center.

“We hold this on Mother’s Day weekend, because we want families to come out and enjoy the rodeo action and enjoy each other’s company,” Brown said.

He added that due to the family nature of the event, no alcohol is sold or allowed on the premises.

Brown’s family plays an important role in the rodeo. His son, Austin, a rising senior at NC State University, is a rodeo competitor in the roping events. Brown’s 17-year-old daughter, Alexa, is doing her part to promote the rodeo by creating a Facebook page devoted to the event and carries the American flag during the opening ceremonies both nights.

Austin and Alexa will be entered in the team-roping event on Friday night. Father and son will showcase the same talent during Saturday’s competition.

Brown also receives help from his family, most of which lives in Pennsylvania.

“They’ll get here on the Monday before the rodeo and help set up the arena during the week,” he said. “I also receive a lot of help from my in-laws, Eugene Buck and his wife, Tammy, Mary E. Buck and Ronald Gene Buck. I also need to thank Mark Perry for all the electrical work he’s done here to help get us ready.”

New to the rodeo this year is trick rider Jessica Blair of Tennessee.

The rodeo also includes a wide variety of food, vendors and attractions for youngsters. Children can enjoy pony rides for a small fee. For those who dare, the event also features a mechanical bull for “arm-chair” rodeo enthusiasts. There is a small fee for this attraction, as well.

A barn dance, featuring local DJ Robert Earl Dilday, will be held Friday night at the conclusion of the competition. Admission to the barn dance is included in the price of admission to the rodeo.

Also featured is a nightly “calf scramble” for children ages 10 and under. The event involves a young calf with an ear tag. The first child to remove that tag will win a new bicycle.

Additionally, a “Ladies Scramble” will be conducted with jewelry from McKeel’s awarded to the winner.

High school seniors can register on Friday to win a Garmin GPS. Two will be given away that night, one to a male and the other to a female.

As a rodeo competitor himself, Brown said he didn’t stage the event for self-serving purposes.

“This is my way of giving something back to the community who has long supported my family and this rodeo,” Brown said. “I can’t do this alone. It takes the support of the community. Those who volunteer to help with everything from parking cars to selling popcorn are a tremendous help. We’ve developed a great network of volunteers over the years to help stage this event. Our many sponsors have been fantastic as well.”

The Gates Volunteer Fire Department and Gates County Rescue Squad will once again be on hand to service the rodeo arena and provide medical help if needed. They will also sell hot sausages, popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy and other items. The Gates firemen also conduct a 50/50 raffle nightly.

Members of Reynoldson Baptist Church will operate the main concession stand this year, selling hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and pork barbecue. The church’s Youth Group will return to sell their delicious funnel cakes.

“The firemen, rescue squad members and churches keep all the profits,” Brown noted. “There’s no way we could put on an event this big without their involvement.”

Inside the arena, the rodeo participants will vie for thousands of dollars in prize money and fight for points in their season-long competition. The event — which features bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping, cowgirls’ barrel racing, breakaway roping and wild bull riding — is sanctioned by the Southern Rodeo Association and the American Pro Rodeo Association.

The competitors come from throughout the United States and Canada.

“This is just good, wholesome family entertainment for all ages,” he said. “Over the years I’ve seen spectators from age 4 to age 80 having themselves a blast. I want to invite everyone to come out and experience what rodeo life is all about.”

Brown said he expects at least 3,000 spectators for the event. But finding a seat should not present any problems, as Brown said he had brought in additional bleachers.

The rodeo arena is located on Paige Riddick Road just off US 13 at the North Carolina-Virginia state line. Signs will point the way.

For more information about the event, call 252-357-2412 or 252-209-1473.