The Kiwanis-Ogeechee Fairgrounds will feel the thunder when Hedrick Rodeo Company brings bulls, broncs and good clean family fun to Statesboro April 15 and 16.
Statesboro Kiwanis Club members, looking for something to fill the space inbetween fairs and bring quality entertainment to the area, decided to hold a professional rodeo in the spring. The event will counterbalance the annual fair in October.
Club member and rodeo committee co-chairman Don Poe said Hedrick Rodeo Company, out of Madison, Tenn., was chosen to bring the show to town because of its professionalism and emphasis on bringing family entertainment and quality livestock.
Danny Hedrick, owner of the company, visited Statesboro Thursday and answered questions during the Statesboro Kiwanis Club's weekly meeting. He and other rodeo committee members, including co-chairman Bill Anderson, strolled around the fairgrounds before the meeting and chose a spot to set up the arena.
The arena will be situated in the center of the fairgrounds. Hedrick's company will bring bleachers and set up six-foot metal panels, but won't have to haul in any dirt.
"We love this dirt," Hedrick said, adding that rodeos have been held in places where red clay was prevalent. "We will disc it up" but the south Georgia soil is perfect for rodeo, he said.
The rodeo welcomes local participants, but there will be professional champions - two-legged and four-legged - competing in the two-day event.
Hedrick Rodeo Company is "sanctioned by the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA)," he said. "It's the second largest (rodeo) association in the world. There will be contestants from all over the country, not just the Southeast."
Hedrick said he expects up to 130 professional competitors each night .
"One of the reasons we picked Danny is because he is associated with IPRA," Anderson said. Hedrick is also associated with the Southern Rodeo Association.
There will be about 50 employees arriving in Statesboro to set up and operate the rodeo, and the number of competitors and their families coming into town will approach 400, he said. In that capacity alone, the rodeo will have an economic impact on Statesboro through sales of gasoline, food, and other things as well as hotel stays, he said.
Hedrick brings years of experience along with his company, as he began riding bareback broncs right out of high school. Having grown up with horses on a ranch and through showing, he topped his first bucking horse in 1983 and it has been a wild ride ever since, he said.
Since then, he has qualified for the International Finals Rodeo and for 12 years in a row with the American Finals Rodeo. Upon retiring from bronc riding he began judging rodeos, and was voted to judge in the National Cowboy Finals 10 times; the Southern States Rodeo Finals four times and the Southern Rough Stock Finals.
His family is quite involved in the rodeo life, too. Jessica Smiley-Hedrick began barrel racing in 1990 and has made the finals in both barrel racing and breakaway roping. Her specialty act is Roman riding - two horses running in tandem, but not harnessed together, as she stands with one foot on each horse's back.
She is a chiropractor back home, which is "convenient," Hedrick said with a chuckle.
Son Justin, 11, and daughter Emily, 9, will also perform trick riding, he said.
Bred to buck
Professional level events during the rodeo will include bareback and saddle bronc riding; calf roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, barrel racing and team roping.
Local riders are welcome to enter, but keep in mind, they will be competing against professionals, including riders listed in the top 15 in the nation, Hedrick said. These riders will be competing for world champion points.
Local adults and children will get their chances to be in the rodeo too, however. The steer dressing event will have several three-person teams (made up of both male and female members) who will catch a 400-pound steer, then dress it in "a very large pair of pants, a very large shirt and a big ol' floppy hat," he said.
Kids will enjoy chasing a calf around the arena during the calf scramble, and the winner will be the one who pulls a ribbon from the calf's tail.
The livestock used in the rodeo are all raised by Hedrick. "They're not pets, but we really enjoy our livestock," he said. "It's something we are proud of."
The horses are mainly quarter horse types, bred to buck. Not all horses "have buck in them," he said. The horses he raises are not worked with until they are four or five years old the age at which they fully mature. A good bucking horse is "ticklish" at the flanks, and will buck when the bucking strap is cinched up. The strap does not inflict pain, but the horse just does not like it, he said. If the horse doesn't mind the feel of a bucking strap, it won't make it as a bronc and will be sold as a riding horse or breeding stock. "You're not going to make one buck if they don't want to."
The cattle "go back to Brahma crosses," he said, but since the breed tends to be lazy, in today's bucking stock "most of the Brahma is bred out," Hedrick said. Like horses, bulls are bred to buck, and if they aren't good buckers, they don't make the cut. Hedrick has stock that have well-known champion bloodlines, going back to famous bulls including one named Katmandu and another named Bell's Blue.
Hedrick promised the show he will bring to Statesboro will be the "real deal," an all-out professional rodeo that offers real competition and family entertainment at the same time.
"This is a family event. We want the kids and families to come out, and they will see the flags and hear the prayers before we start," he said.
Poe said a "meet the cowboys/cowgirls" session will be held before the rodeo as well as after, and a cutting horse demonstration is scheduled before the rodeo begins.
Concessions, including the popular pancakes and sausage from the Statesboro Kiwanis Pancake House, will be available, he said. Vendors, pony rides and kid's jump rides will also be present.
Admission and other details will be released closer to rodeo time in April, Anderson said. The rodeo will begin at 7:30 p.m. each night, Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16.
Gates and the pancake house open at 5 p.m.
For more information, contact Poe at 912-541-0411 or Anderson at 912-541-6447.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 912-489-9414.