There will be a special focus on family when the Tops In Texas PRCA Rodeo opens its three-night run at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Jacksonville Rodeo Arena
This will mark the 52nd year for the rodeo to set up shop in Jacksonville and right out of the gate there are at least a couple of noteworthy changes.
For starters, this year's rodeo will take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, beginning with the grand entries at 7 p.m. nightly.
Prior to this this year, the Jacksonville rodeo had been a four-day event.
One of the events' long-time head honchos, Charles Dickerson, said that it was time to do things a little bit different this year.
“By going from four to three nights, we will be more in line with what a lot of the other cities have been doing,” Dickerson said. “This (format) seems popular with the cowboys and should work in our favor in attracting top-notch cowboys and cowgirls.”
Dickerson said that this is not the first time that the Tops In Texas has been a three-night production.
“We've had it over three nights and spread out over four,” Dickerson explained. “I think the committee this year liked the idea of a three-night rodeo.”
Tops in Texas will still feature all of the competitions — bull riding, barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling and team roping — that fans have come to expect annually.
With PRCA rodeos also scheduled to take place in Vernon and in Carthage next weekend, Texas Circuit contestants will have a favorable string of rodeos that will be offering them plenty of chances to earn a pay check.
“I think everyone will be real happy with the quality of cowboys that we will have coming in this year,” Dickerson said.
Another new feature this year is that all seats (excluding box seats) will be free of admission charge on Thursday evening, courtesy of the fine folks at Trail to Christ Cowboy Church, who have bought out the house, so that the free admission deal could be offered.
Trail to Christ Cowboy Church pastor, Mark Norman, explained the rationale behind the idea.
“Our church as well as the rodeo reach out to the community and to families and we believe that this is a good way for families to come out and spend time together and enjoy the sport of rodeo right here in Jacksonville, Norman said. “This is a coordinated effort between Trial to Christ Cowboy Church and the Jacksonville Rodeo Association and we have been working well together on this.”
Dickerson said that in nearby Henderson a local cowboy church has distributed free tickets for opening night for several years now and that packed houses have been the result.
There's two things that pastor Norman knows quite a bit about: Jesus Christ and rodeo, as he is a former rodeo cowboy himself.
Norman said that he plans to deliver a “sermonette” during one of the intermissions on Thursday and that he hopes that people who are looking for a church home or a place to worship in the unpretentious spirit of the old west will consider attending services at Trail to Christ Cowboy Church, located on Highway 79 West.