HEMPSTEAD, Texas – To call the 2014 Waller County Fair and Rodeo a success might be a bit of an understatement.
“This year’s fair broke more records over the eight-day event than any other in the 69-year history,” said Clint Sciba, president of the Waller County Fair Board. “It was an outstanding year, from great attendance to outstanding shows to an awesome rodeo.”
The single-day attendance record was shattered on the opening weekend, people packed the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead for a busy day capped off buy a packed-house performance by Texas Music artist Cody Johnson.
“That was an awesome way to start our fair,” said Dustin Standley, the fair board’s vice president.
The momentum continued through the remaining days of the exposition. With the help of two newly formed exhibitions – The Eliminator, which was a tie-down roping match featuring top cowboys in the game, and the 8 Second Bareback Shootout, a head-to-head match with veteran Clint Cannon of Waller, Texas, and Richie Champion of The Woodlands, Texas – attendance records continued to fall.
“With The Eliminator, we had another record at the gate with people wanting to watch some of these great guys, including the 2013 world champion Shane Hanchey and a couple of other guys heading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Timber Moore and Tyson Durfey,” said Paul Shollar, co-chairman of the rodeo committee. “Reno Gonzalez and another NFR veteran, Houston Hutto, put up a good fight, but Timber Moore eliminated them all one by one to pick up the championship buckle and check.
“Also on Tuesday night, another local guy, Cory Solomon, beat out all the others from the PRCA by winning the open tie down roping. He was two seconds better than the second-place guy when everybody was done roping three calves. It was an incredible night of calf roping.”
The 8 Second Bareback Shootout during Friday’s rodeo performance exhibited the highest marked rides of the week, when Cannon rode Pete Carr’s River Blast for 90 points to edge Champion, who scored 88 points on Carr’s Little Sister. Cannon then returned to the arena Saturday night, where he posted an 87-point ride on Carr’s Night Bells to win the bareback riding at his hometown rodeo for the first time in his career.
“I’ve been coming to the Waller County rodeo since I was little,” said Cannon, who earned more than $2,100 and a Montana Silversmiths championship buckle. “We got it to be a ProRodeo four years ago, and I never even placed this year. To win in front of everybody – I’m getting toward the end of my career – feels good to let everybody come out and see in person that I can ride.
“A lot of people in my hometown never get to see me win, they just get to see me on TV.”
While the rodeo arena featured its share of excitement, there was plenty to be found all across the fairgrounds. On Saturday afternoon, Atlas Foundation broke a five-year-old record by purchasing the grand champion steer for $35,500. It was just one of nine livestock exhibit records that were broken in 2014.
With the help of Don and Donna Gregg, Anthony and Shauda Edmonds and Chuck and Rita Scianna, a new record of $75,000 for the scholarship lot was established, bettering the four-year-old mark of $25,000 by the Sciannas.
“It’s almost overwhelming when you think of all the great things that happened to us during the fair this year,” Sciba said. “We had a lot of outstanding volunteers who had the support from sponsors and the community to make this the best fair in southeast Texas, and I think we pulled it off.
“We’re ready to build off this success. We have a lot of ideas of things we want to do with our fair and rodeo in the future. We want to just keep getting better, and with the support we’ve received, I have no doubts we can make it.”