Crowds gather for rodeo

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By Poppy Moe

Saturday at the Williston Horseman's Park there was a full night of entertainment and the sport of rodeo. It was the 14th annual Johnny Hodge Memorial High School Rodeo.

One big hit and laugh of the night was the Donkey Derby. Sheriff Johnny Smith, County Commissioners Tony Parker and Danny Stevens, Bronson City Councilman Berlon Weeks and Rodeo Chairman Duke Reid were the five men jockeys

Leanne Carnes was the sole woman donkey rider, becoming a last minute substitute for husband Larry Carnes who is a candidate for president of the Williston Horseman's Association.

The donkeys were a far cry from their cousins, the thoroughbred horses that run in the Kentucky Derby every spring. Most did not want to walk much less run down the straight-away. They would go forward a few steps then drop their heads and "plop," off went the rider. The audience was cheering and in hysterical laughter.

A winner finally emerged after many ungraceful and unplanned dismounts by all the riders. Duke Reid was the first to make it to the finish line.

The rodeo itself was a serious competition with the best cowboy and cowgirl athletes competing for trophy buckles and points to help each in their try for state finals. Only the top 15 in each event get to go to the finals.

At the opening of the 7 o'clock performance, Duke Reid and the Rodeo Committee took a well deserved bow and wave at the crowd while being transported around the arena by Gary Moe and his 6 pony wagon hitch. Rick Ward was the ever dynamic announcer and funny clown, "Gatorman", Kenny Schappacker stole a lot of laughs and conducted the Boot Race for the kids. Kirsten McManus was the beautiful Rodeo Queen who reigned over the rodeo and conducted the American flag ceremonies and led the Grand Entry.

The President of the Florida High School Rodeo Association, Morgan Henry declared Williston as "one of the best high school rodeos in the state." The trophy buckles presented to each champion were very professional in quality and beauty, something each winner will proudly wear.

The rodeo fans were great and cheered and supported the star athletes which included credit to the best livestock and good horses. The professional rodeo Judges, Doug Larkins, J.D. Ivanes and Ed Pendray, kept the rodeo rules right and fair for all contestants and animals. Local cowboy Jake Parrish and stock contractor, D.R. Daniels were the two heroic pick-up men. The Rocking 86 Rodeo Company, headed up by D.R. Daniels, provided a great show and will hopefully be back next year for the 15th annual Williston Rodeo.