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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

Community gathers for 110th Annual Clovis Rodeo

Clovis Rodeo ropes in 50,000 spectators and competitors for anticipated event
110th+Annual+Clovis+Rodeo%2C+April+24-28.
Giada Gilmore Young
110th Annual Clovis Rodeo, April 24-28.

A light breeze flows through the crowd, a welcomed contradiction to the Fresno heat, courtesy of the April afternoon. An eerie hush travels through the packed stands as cowboy hats are removed and hands reach over spectators’ hearts. The speakers project America’s national anthem. The red, white and blue flags are proudly flown from horseback. The song comes to an end and a deafening cheer erupts. The 110th annual Clovis Rodeo has officially begun and with it brings another packed weekend of community bonding.

Anticipation keeps spectators on their feet as the day’s events begin. Giada Gilmore Young

Years ago, 110 specifically, the small agricultural town of Clovis held the first “Clovis Rodeo,” formally known as the Clovis Festival. The single-day festival in 1914 was arranged by the Clovis Women’s Club and consisted of a parade followed by games, horse races and a picnic. When the tradition began, it was solely meant to be an enjoyable community gathering; by 1921, local cowboys were able to host the first rodeo events and showcase their abilities

Since then the Clovis Rodeo has evolved into a five-day event with close to 50,000 spectators, and is among the top 20 largest rodeos in the nation. There are 550 cowboys, 70 cowgirls, 50 mutton busters, 746 animal athletes and 700 volunteers that make the event possible. The Clovis Rodeo has grown in popularity and continues to be a strong community-building event. It draws in a vast array of participants and spectators all embracing a bit of the yee-haw lifestyle. 

Rodeo Director and dedicated attendee, Chuck Rigsbee, went from attending the rodeo as a kid to sitting on the board of directors who make this event possible. 

Several improvements were made going into this years’ rodeo; Rigsbee accredited them to the strong support of community sponsors. As parking has been an issue in the past, the board has made shuttles available to attendeess. They have partnered with the city to use their roundup buses so spectators can park at Sierra Vista Mall and take a shuttle to the rodeo grounds. The rodeo would not be what it is without the spectators, so the team prioritized improving the convenience for the people. 

More improvements were made to the VIP boxes above the cattle shoots. Fresno Christian families, the Tarlton’s and the Meyers’, oversaw the reconstruction of the Centennial Suites. It is because of generous sponsors like them that the Clovis Rodeo board has been able to maintain lower ticket prices to keep the family event affordable for all. 

During the singing of the national anthem, the American flag is raced throughout the arena. (Giada Gilmore Young)

Director Rigsbee addresses the thought and hard work that the board has put in behind the scenes of this cherished event.

“Every year we (the board of directors) always try to do better than we did the year before. We always make sure we have the top stock whether that’s bucking stock bull, which attracts the top cowboys,” Rigsbee said. “We work really hard to keep it, from the standpoint of the community, a fun family affordable event no matter what.” 

Community is what sets the Clovis Rodeo apart from other gatherings; people of every lifestyle can gather in their Western best to watch the day’s events. When the gates open an hour before, people storm in armed with their boots and cowboy hats. Inside the gates, before reaching the arena, attendees can find food booths, small business tents, nonprofit booths and a fan favorite, the mechanical bull. 

From Wednesday to Friday, the rodeo events kick off at 5:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday start time is at 2:00 p.m. The day’s events always kick off with the singing of the national anthem.  With the help of volunteers and their horses, the American flag is flown proudly throughout the arena. A strong sense of patriotism that can only be found through community blankets the stands as the audience hoots and hollers for the beginning of hours of entertainment. It is a special privilege to experience the unity of the pre-rodeo prayer. It is not common for a proclamation of faith to be seen in group gatherings anymore, but the Clovis Rodeo has kept its ways the same, despite the change of times. 

The Clovis rodeo is a part of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). The association handles the direction of the athletes ensuring that the best cowboys and cowgirls are participating in the rodeo. 

In the order of events, bareback broncs start off each rodeo day. The cowboys are in for a wild ride as they strive to reach the eight-second requirement. It may be one of the shortest competition times of any sport, however, it is no easy task to hold on to the bucking horse when it can jump almost six feet in the air.

Bareback broncs are then followed by steer wrestling, where the cowboys dismount from their steeds mid-canter to tackle the steer. The audience gets a first look at the cowgirls during women’s breakaway roping, then the broncs are back for round two, but this time with saddles. 

The rodeo would not be the rodeo without barrelman and rodeo clown JJ Harrison. Harrison’s ability to entertain the crowd never goes unnoticed and fans find themselves enamored by his quick wit, stage presence and charm. One of Harrison’s beloved antics is to throw his plush football into the crowd with spectators lunging left and right in hopes of catching it.

The Seibert family showed their support to the youngest family member, Jake Seibert. (Seibert family)

Serving as an “intermission” from the professional events, mutton busting is up next and always proves to be a crowd favorite. Mutton busting is a beloved event that showcases the young cowboys and cowgirls from 5-7 years old giving sheep riding a try. The young kids are lined up and introduced to the crowd, each one getting a roaring round of applause from the audience. They get evaluated on their attire, with one of the kiddos taking home an award for best dressed. The little athletes gear up, and the crowd goes wild as they hang on to the sprinting sheep for dear life. A small belt buckle is awarded to the rider who holds on the longest. 

On Friday night Fresno Christian pre-schoolers Colton Pierce and Jake Siebert had the opportunity to participate as mutton busters. Fifth-grade teacher and proud mom, Jaci Siebert, has attended the Clovis Rodeo numerous times, but found it extra special to watch her son participate. 

Jake had a blast at the rodeo this year,” Siebert said. “Watching it through his eyes was even more special than all the memories I had growing up around the rodeo. He is hoping he will get to participate again.”

Following mutton busting is team roping, where two cowboys tag team on a running calf. One gets the head of the steer, the other the legs. Tie-down roping takes place next, right before the most anticipated women’s event, barrel racing. 

The cowboys can only use one hand in both bronc and bulls during the eight-second ride. (Giada Gilmore Young)

Barrel racing is a very competitive event where the athlete and her horse race to get the fastest time swerving between three barrels without knocking them down. Junior Rynna Silva is a dedicated rodeo competitor and has the opportunity to compete in the Junior State Rodeo Finals. Silva shares her ambitions of competing locally next year as a barrel racer.

“My first Clovis Rodeo I went to was in 2018 and I always wanted to be out there in the arena,” Silva said “I will hopefully be eligible to compete next year in it and would love to entertain such a supporting local crowd.” 

The night’s rodeo events then are always finished with the rodeo’s most desired yet dangerous event: bull riding. Similar to broncs, bull riding also includes the cowboys ability to hold on. It is set apart by the size and aggression of the animal. The bulls weigh around 1,500 pounds and tend to hold a grudge, for they are known for going after the cowboys even when the eight seconds are up.

Wednesday through Friday, the night closed with a drone lights show and an outdoor concert performance by country artists. Other special events included the Saturday morning parade, and a Saturday night after-hours dance. Sunday was the conclusion of the rodeo with the week’s best competitors competing for the ultimate titles. By 5:00 p.m. Sunday, the five-day event comes to a bittersweet close. Although it ends the year’s rodeo, it brings anticipation for the year to come. 

The Clovis Rodeo is a reflection of community bonding. As this year’s events came to an end, sophomore Kennedy Schwab shared how attending the 110th rodeo has amplified her appreciation of Clovis. 

“The rodeo has always been important to me because the community comes together to watch and enjoy what we love most,” Schwab said. “Being a part of this community has given me a new realization and support for what is put into it!” 

Tickets for the 2025 Clovis Rodeo are already on sale. The best place to purchase tickets is the Clovis Rodeo website.

Thank you to Rodeo Director Chuck Rigsbee and his media team for the exclusive access and generosity shown to The Feather Online.

To read more from The Feather read Local hike attracts students or Ruby Bakers journeys through creativity.

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About the Contributors
Danielle Arndt
Danielle Arndt, Editor
Second-year journalist, Danielle Arndt, ‘26, continues her journey as a returning writer for The Feather Online. Arndt believes in the importance of integrity, dedicating herself wholly to whatever she puts her mind to. Self-proclaimed movie enthusiast, she loves immersing herself in the cinematic world, hiding from reality. Writing has always been the way she could express herself and the stories living rent-free in her mind. Arndt aspires to be an author, she cannot hold her excitement to grow in the fields of journalism.
Giada Gilmore Young
Giada Gilmore Young, Photojournalist
Giada Gilmore Young sprints through life with a camera in her hand. She is a freshman at Fresno Christian Schools and a first-year photojournalist on the Feather. Gilmore Young owns her own business called Interwoven, which sells creative and upcycled goods. She plays piano for the worship team, runs Track & field and Cross Country, and serves as a student leader.
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    Chloe McDonaldMay 6, 2024 at 11:13 am

    Very exciting read! Good job Dani, very well written.

    Reply