There were bulls, at least a few bruises if not any blood, plenty of dust and mud, and some wild cows' milk to boot at the Soldotna Progress Days Rodeo Saturday at the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds.
Rodeo action continues today with a full slate of events and activities beginning at 1 p.m.
"I love doing it. I've been doing it since I was able to get on a calf," said junior bull-riding winner Mellissa Fowler of Soldotna of the rodeo experience. "The joke is, I've been riding since before I was born."
Fowler managed to avoid the bruises, the dust and the mud Saturday, hanging on to her bull for the required eight seconds before gracefully dismounting. Fowler also took the 11-to-16 age group in the barrel racing competition, completing the clover-shaped loop in 16.109 seconds, a time that also would have won the 17-and-up group.
Fowler teamed with her father, Glenn, to win the rescue race, racing three other teams the length of the arena, picking up her father and then racing back.
Mark Peterson and M.J. Warbington teamed up to win the double mugging event in which one partner starts on horseback and ropes a calf while the other, who starts on foot, has the task of wrestling the calf to the ground.
Christian McCormick won the 17-and-up division in the barrel racing competition, and Heather Peterson teamed up with Marc Peterson to win the team roping event. Heather lassoed the steer's head, while Marc, the tandem's heeler, was charged with roping the rear legs.
Randy Grant won the calf roping contest, doing all the things the double muggers do but without any help, and Jeanette MacDonald and Charlie MacDonald won the ribbon roping contest. Garrett Willis won the breakaway roping contest.
In the hide race, in which a child is dragged around the arena on a tanned hide by a rider on a horse, Stephen Kitchen hung on for the win. Brody Wetzel took the calf riding competition. Jennifer Murray won the steer daubing competition, daubing a running steer on the back of its neck from horseback, a prelude to actually roping the animal.
And, to finish off the afternoon activities, Mike Blore and Shirley Schollenberg teamed up to win the wild cow milking contest. Blore roped the cow while Schollenberg was able to get enough milk into a bottle to please the judges.
For Fowler, as well as many of the other participants, the rodeo was truly a family event. Glenn helped keep the livestock moving through the pens, and older sister Chelsey and mother Beth both competed in the barrel races, as did younger brother Jacob.
"My mom, she's had horses since she was 13, and my dad used to bull ride," Mellissa said of her family's involvement in the peninsula rodeo scene. "They got married, so we were born into it. They're going on 19 years, and they've been doing it ever since."
Glenn, who lived in Arkansas until he was 14, said he grew up watching rodeos, but never participated until he married Beth.
"That's her passion -- horses," Glenn said.
That passion was passed on to all three kids, who each repeated the family joke -- that they were riding before they were born. In fact, Chelsey is a new mom and expects her 1-month-old daughter Laynee to be in the saddle pretty soon.
Mellissa said her horse, Beau, is a great barrel racer, but Chelsey's horse Mocha is better in the poles, a slalom course for horse and rider, scheduled for today.
"We're just coming together as a team," Mellissa said. "He's almost 8 years old, and I've had him since I was 2. I trained him by myself."
Mellissa said she and her siblings started barrel racing in small events when they were 5 or 6, but moved up to the bigger events, like Saturday's rodeo, when they got their own horses.
"We got good enough that we could try to win our money back," Mellissa said.
Chelsey and Mellissa said that the junior bull-riding competition was simply a case of mind over matter.
"If you're thinking you're going to ride, you'll ride," Mellissa said. "If you're scared, don't ride."
Despite the competition in rodeo, Jacob said there isn't a family rivalry.
"We all cheer for each other. We're just happy if one of us gets a better time," Jacob said.
Indeed, the Fowlers have been known to work together in the team penning competition, which involves cutting a few cows out of a herd and coaxing them into a pen at the other end of the arena.
"It's definitely family fun. It keeps everyone out of trouble," Beth said.
"It's a lot of fun to watch, and there's a whole lot worse things they could be doing," said Glenn.
Progress Days Rodeo at the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds
Saturday's place winners
Double mugging -- 1. Mark Peterson and M.J. Warbington; 2. Garrett Willis and Mike Blore. Rescue race -- 1. Melissa Fowler and Glenn Fowler. Hide race -- 1. Stephen Kitchen; 2. Cassie McKenzie; 3. Andrew Kurka. Barrel racing -- 11-16: 1. Melissa Fowler, 16.109 seconds; 2. Jackie Rainwater, 16.449; 3. Jennifer Murray, 16.651. 17 and up: 1. Christian McCormick, 16.227; 2. Shirley Schollenberg, 16.311; 3. Katie Schollenberg, 16.331. Calf riding -- 1. Brody Wetzel; 2. Dennis Poage. Team roping -- 1. Heather Peterson, header, and Marc Peterson, heeler, 10.78; 2. Marvin Warbington, header, and Mike Blore, heeler, 12.43; 3. Callie Willis, header, and Lisa Barnes, heeler, 19.81. Junior bull riding -- 1. Melissa Fowler, 85 points. Steer daubing -- 1. Jennifer Murray, 1.56; 2. Kori Baker, 1.85. Breakaway roping -- 1. Garrett Willis, 3.25; 2. Mike Rainwater, 3.91. Calf roping -- 1. Randy Grant, 52.05. Ribbon roping -- 1. Jeanette MacDonald and Charlie MacDonald; 2. Lisa Barnes and Trevor Davis. Wild cow milking -- 1. Mike Blore and Shirley Schollenberg; 2. Rob Seiler and Cindy Gallagher.
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