A new rodeo club will be giving high school students an opportunity to learn the ropes.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The movement to keep the cowboy heritage alive in America has been officially spurred in Alaska.
The National High School Rodeo Association recently opened a chapter in the state, the newest addition to the organization, which has gotten local founders quite excited.
Marie Brooks, secretary-treasurer of the Alaska chapter, said things are off to a good start, and there is plenty to do to prepare for the first rodeo.
"We just sent in the paperwork in October, so we're very new. We're already getting the kids organized so we can get ready for a rodeo as early as May," Brooks said.
Through the organization, students will compete for scholarships. This initial year is a big one for those college dollars.
"Since this is our first year, the big sponsors like Wrangler will offer scholarships. Every new state that becomes a member has some big opportunities," Brooks said.
NHSRA Alaska will host several rodeos which will be state-qualifying events.
"The top three from every event in the state finals goes to the national rodeo in Gillette Wyoming July 18-24. The scholarships are as big as $10,000 there," Brooks said.
The club is for high school-age students this year, but will be available to junior high-age students in the coming years.
"It doesn't matter if they are home schooled, or in any public school. I love that this is open to all kids. They don't even have to have their own horse, so they can just get out there and have fun," she said.
Brooks said there were some requirements that accompany those privileges.
"Students have to have passing grades and be in good behavior. They will be taking on some responsibility," she said.
The students will be in charge of building and launching a marketing plan. Under the supervision of experienced adults, they will be everything from timers to announcers.
"We get the kids together to set up committees to identify their roles for putting on rodeos. We provide structure, and we highly encourage anybody to get involved because it pays off," Brooks said.
Mary Rainwater, Soldotna resident and co-founder, said the group will bring together rodeo enthusiasts from all over the state.
"There is an amazing amount of talent here. The kids will do well. Being associated with the nationals means more access to opportunities," Rainwater said. "The rewards are more than the scholarships. Just being part of this teaches the value of making good decisions and teaches kids how to be responsible adults."
Rainwater said the upcoming rodeos, both national rodeo qualifying, will most likely be held in the Soldotna Rodeo Arena. However, the organization eventually wants to build its own arena for year-round practicing for the national championships every July.
"We're in the process of building our own rodeo arena and right now we're looking at some properties. Hopefully we will have it up before the 2006 Arctic Winter Games," Brooks said.
For more information, visit www. nhsra.org on the Internet, or call NHSRA national director, Mike Rainwater at (907) 262-5568
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