Hedrick Rodeo is bringing excitement to town for the 10th time this spring, with new acts, more broncs and bulls, and plenty of family entertainment in the 10th annual Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo.
To Statesboro Kiwanis members and Hedrick alike, his coming to Statesboro is almost like a family reunion. For a decade, the club and Hedrick's outfit have teamed up for the event with professional and novice riders, award-winning livestock, fun contests and side-splitting clowns. Hedrick has made friends, built relationships and learned his way around the city, he said.
He always visits before the rodeo to plan the event with Kiwanis members, and he visited just last week to prepare for the spring rodeo. The show is the secondary fundraiser for the club; the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair lasts six days in the fall, and the rodeo is held for two days each spring, said Kiwanis Rodeo Committee chairman Bill Anderson.
This year, the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo is April 17 and April 18 at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds on Highway 67.
The rodeo has been popular from the start, Anderson said.
"It sold out the first time and hasn't slowed down."
More seats were added this year, and the arena has been upsized in the past due to the event's success.
It's never the same show, either, Hedrick said. He makes sure of that.
"We have lots of new things. I try to do something new every time because I want to be different. I don't ever want people to say it is the same as last year."
The family-owned Hedrick Rodeo Company is based in Madisonville, Tennessee, close to the Georgia line. Hedrick travels all over the region with rodeos and has expanded in south Georgia since he first brought the rodeo to town in Statesboro.
"We pitch award-winning livestock against championship riders," he said of the International Professional Rodeo Association-sanctioned competition. In April, "we will bring even more bulls and broncs than before."
He raises his own line of bucking horses in Tennessee, sometimes boarding a string of horses and herd of cattle at a farm in Waynesboro while he has rodeo events in south Georgia and adjacent states. Both his bucking horses and bulls have won high marks in the business, including a horse named Jughead, who was the highest-marked saddle bronc at an IPRA rodeo in Oklahoma City.
Trick riding is back
When Hedrick first brought the rodeo to Statesboro, his children Justin and Emily Hedrick delighted the crowd with daring trick-riding stunts. Emily will return to the arena this year, this time with her friend Allison Roberts, who is rated as one of the top 10 trick riders in the nation and has ridden in the Dixie Stampede, Hedrick said. The two-girl team placed second in a recent trick-riding competition in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and Emily placed second when representing the Georgia High School Rodeo Association in a national competition in Rock Springs, Ohio, he said.
Although the Hedrick family lives in Tennessee, their location mandates they participate in the GHSRA chapter, he explained.
Miss Rodeo USA is always a hit with a sparkling smile, flashy Western show attire and a silver crown serving as a hat band. The 2020 Miss Rodeo USA is Brooke Wallace from Kansas, and she will be making her rounds the week before the rodeo, visiting sponsoring businesses and local schools. One stop is Anderson's General Store, where advance tickets will be sold, and the contest to guess the weight of the bull will be held, Bill Anderson said.
Hedrick said this year's clown is Rob Gann of Arkansas, and the announcer will be Jamie Ozbanks. Vendors will include Hunter Cattle Company, Sandra's Hats, Big Boy Cookies, Kiwanis BBQ and more.
"It won't be typical rodeo food," he said. "It is high-quality food."
Anderson agreed: "It is a step above."
Hedrick encourages families to come early and enjoy the atmosphere before the show.
"Walk around, eat, let your kids play," he said.
There is also the chance to pet a horse, visit with Miss Rodeo USA and meet competitors.
Fun events will include the treasure hunt, where kids dig for trinkets in scattered hay, as well as bungee jumps, a mechanical bull and jump houses.
Tickets are available to purchase in advance from Anderson's General Store for $12 and are $16 at the gate. Children's ticket prices are $7 in advance and $11 at the gate.
Gates open at 5 p.m., and the rodeo starts at 7:15 p.m.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.