COLUMBIA – Bring out your cowboy hats and pull on your boots: This year's annual Missouri High School Rodeo has begun.
Two smiling MHSR contestants, Macy Randolph and Jessy Maddux , sat in their chairs Wednesday afternoon at the Central Missouri Events Center arena, quietly whispering and giggling before the beginning of their evaluations for the Missouri High School Queen contest.
A hush fell over the crowd as Carissa Pike, former Missouri High School Rodeo queen, announced the judges and then the names of the contestants. While their names were spoken and merits listed, the two girls paraded around the front room of the Central Missouri Events Center arena, showing off their cowgirl knowledge and pride.
The prospective queens must wait until Saturday evening to find out who will walk away with this year's sash. There will be plenty of other action in the meantime.
Later on Wednesday, high school contestants on horses sped around barrels in the pit of the arena in the evening barrel race, part of a volunteer fundraising event.
MacKenzie Oestman, 12, swung a slender cord rapidly above her head. A few seconds later, the cord was pulled tight around the neck of a black and purple plastic steer.
Her father, Lonnie, stood nearby, waiting his turn to rope the stationary animal.
“Triple or nothing I make this,” he said.
The pair traveled Wednesday for the start of the rodeo.
A long line of horses and riders snaked along the arena’s west side as they waited their turn to test their skills during the evening’s jackpot barrel race.
Chris Kraus pushed open a squeaky white metal gate each time a contestant’s horse trotted up to the entrance of the arena.
The contestants rounded four barrels, and, less than a minute later, were back outside.
When not watching the action unfolding in the arena, audience members milled through the center, stopping at exhibitor’s booths and sampling items at the concession stand.
The rodeo includes more than 10 events divided among the young cowboys and cowgirls, including bronc riding, steer wrestling, pole bending and goat tying.
The first full rodeo performance will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, during which contestants will compete in some or all of their selected events. The competitions will continue through Saturday afternoon.
The 12 best contestants from each event will advance to a "short go" that begins at 6 p.m. Saturday. The rodeo will conclude with an award ceremony Sunday morning.
"I would like to see everybody come out to support the Missouri high school students as they compete and head out for the national high school rodeo," MHSR South Director Bernice Clark said. "They've waited all year for this."
MHSR is a member of the National High School Rodeo Association. The top four contestants in each category will continue on to the National High School Rodeo Finals, where approximately 1,500 other contestants from around the U.S., Canada and Australia will compete for prizes, awards and scholarships, according to the NHSRA website.
Supervising editor is Mary Ryan.