Josh Garrick, who just got married, spent part of his honeymoon in Statesboro wearing face paint, funny clothes and oversized shoes.
The 4-foot-tall man is better known as "Pork Chop," and after performing at the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo Friday and Saturday nights, he and his new wife, Jessica, are enjoying alone time at the beach and then plan a trip to Disneyland.
The Arkansas native grew up in rodeo and never wanted to do anything else. However, in case he ever needs it, he does have a degree in accounting.
He was a bull fighter for five years, keeping angry bulls away from the cowboys they had thrown, but now his role in rodeo is strictly entertainment. In those moments where there are delays or in between events, Pork Chop keeps the laughs going.
Two total knee replacements, broken ribs, arms, jaw and orbital socket later, it's a safer position he takes when he contracts for numerous rodeo companies.
This weekend, he kept the laughter going as he mingled with kids during the "calf scramble," where children chased a calf and tried to take ribbon from its tail. He joked, he cavorted, he did what he loves best.
"Bull riding is the most interesting – and most dangerous event," he said.
As Garrick brought smiles to faces Friday and Saturday, other aspects of the rodeo exploded l around him.
For the third year in a row, the Statesboro Kiwanis Club invited Hedrick Rodeo Co. to the fairgrounds. The first year, the rodeo was sold out. The next year and this year, stands were packed. The event is definitely an annual endeavor, said rodeo co-chairman and Statesboro Kiwanian Don Poe, who portrays a sidekick for Pork Chop; a 6-foot-tall-plus clown named "Fry Daddy" each year during the Statesboro rodeo.
Local riders competed against world champions in bareback and saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, team roping and bull riding. Local riders included Spencer Mascarello of Statesboro (bull riding), Michael Riggs of Claxton (bull riding), Tyler Wallace of Reidsville (bull riding) and Smith Baggett of Statesboro (bull riding).
Others were Charlie Burch of Millen (tie-down calf roping), Jason Wamba of Statesboro (team roping), Courtney Hodges of Statesbor (barrel racing), Hayley Parker of Millen (barrel racing), Jamie Swinson of Claxton (barrel racing) and Jessi Zipperer of Statesboro (barrel racing).
Miss Rodeo USA Lauren Terry made several appearances in the arena throughout the night, escorting riders in victory laps and carrying an oversized American flag during the patriotic display where eight Bulloch County 4-H Drill Team also appeared with flags. The award-wining drill team also performed prior to the events.
The rain stayed away Friday as patrons filled the stands, buying food and souvenirs as they cheered their favorite riders. On Saturday, the rodeo played out under clear skies and warmer temperatures.
Jessica Hedrick, who owns the rodeo company along with husband Danny, wowed the crowd as she rode three American paint horses at once, guiding them through a flaming ring of fire. Local teams brought laughs too as they competed in "steer dressing" – where they had to catch and dress an uncooperative steer.
Anne Redding walked back to her seat in the stands after visiting a local vendor. She was at the rodeo to watch her granddaughter, Courtney Hodges, ride. While Courtney's event was barrel racing, Redding said she enjoyed the bucking events too.
Marcus Helms, a 1st lieutenant with the Statesboro unit of the Civil Air Patrol, supervised young cadets as they sold flags for a fundraiser. The group has supported the Kiwanis rodeo since the beginning, he said.
"I love it. It brings family and the community together," he said. He commended the Statesboro Kiwanis Club for the rodeo and for its annual fair, which will see its 52nd year in October.
"They're doing the same thing we do but on a larger scale," he said. "Doing it for the kids."
The event drew more than 4,000 visitors each night.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.