MOUNT VERNON — The last two nights of the Knox County Fair feature some of the bigger grandstand events. On Friday, it was a full-scale rodeo, complete with multiple events like steer wrestling and calf roping along with horse and bull riding.
The Grandstand Championship Rodeo, presented by Diamond J Rodeo Company, featured participants from all over the state and different parts of the country including Arizona, Missouri, Illinois, Florida and Oklahoma, to name a few.
The event had a combination of veteran competitors who travel to different rodeos each weekend and compete and local or first-time rodeo participants who are just getting into the scene.
Madison Armstrong, 22, one of the many competitors from Centerburg, competed in her first rodeo with her horse, Evie, in the barrel racing event.
Armstrong said that it took quite a bit of effort in learning the turns, but that she and her horse were ready.
“It takes a lot of time, not just necessarily practicing the pattern but also working on a lot of collection and bending of the horse so that you get a smooth pattern throughout the entire thing,” Armstrong said.
The barrel race involves three barrels and turns around each one — either one right and two lefts or one left and two rights. The horse and rider and have to keep balance around each one and move as quickly as possible.
The bond with the horse is one of the key components to a competition such as a barrel race, and Armstrong said that she and her now-eight-year-old horse have achieved a good level of it.
“It takes quite a bit of time. Sometimes it can happen instantly, but you have to spend a lot of time working a good horse. Ground work — working on the ground with your horse. Doing things with them. Not just working them because then they’re not going to enjoy spending time with you. You want to groom them, let them eat grass … all kinds of stuff.”
Armstrong said that she would like to do more rodeos in the future with her horse, who is getting used to the lights and sounds of a rodeo.
“I’m trying to be a better competitor, she’s still kinda new to all of this,” Armstrong said. “So we’re trying to get her some more experience so when she comes, she has her mind straight and is focused on what we’re here to do.”
The final event of the rodeo was the bull riding competition with several seasoned vets competing, many of whom are from Ohio.
Nathan Colburn, of Crown City/Gallipolis, and Austin Barber of Patriot, were two of the bull riders and they both looked and sounded like they came out of the 1990’s rodeo movie ‘8 Seconds.’ Both riders grew up in neighboring towns from each other in the southern part of the state and both do this as a second job of sorts.
“We ride all over the place. Different rodeos, different bulls, different people, different towns, stuff like that,” said Barber, who is 22 and works a full-time job during the week in between rodeos. “As much as we absolutely can, we’ll be at a rodeo. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we’re doing something.”
This was the first time that either Barber or Colburn, 21, had been to the Knox County Fair. Both riders said that their results at any rodeo they compete in depends on a combination of factors, including which animal they ride.
“It kinda just depends on which bull you get,” Barber said. “You run your clock up to eight seconds, then you get a score. Then your score determines how the rest of the night’s gonna fall.”
Colburn said that he started doing this in high school and wants to pursue it as long as he can.
“Honestly, as a kid, this was my dream. This is what I wanted to do ever since Mom and Dad sat me in front of the television and I was watching PBR (Professional Bull Riders),” Colburn said. “I rode sheep and calves and steers growing up. At about 15 I got too big for them. When I was 18, I broke down and I just said wherever it takes me, whether I’m no good at all or whether I’m the best there ever was, I just want to be the best I can, achieve what I can, win as many buckles as I can and as much money as I can.”