This marks the return of the Tops in Texas Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13-Saturday, May 15, at the Jacksonville Rodeo Arena. Cancelled a year ago while under the grips of a worldwide pandemic, the organizers of the 59th annual rodeo are ready for life to return to a bit of normalcy.
“COVID pretty much just caused everything to come to a standstill,” said Penny Hanson, a longtime member of the volunteer rodeo committee. “People were working from home and staying home. It was tough on everybody.
“It seems like Jacksonville has pretty much gotten back to normal. The last year was pretty depressing, but we’re hoping to put on a good event and give them something to come out to and enjoy. We are the first event in town after COVID.”
That’s the resiliency of a community that has banded together. The rodeo, Hanson said, is one of the last remaining traditions in the town of nearly 15,000 people.
“We try to provide good, wholesome family entertainment and fun,” she said. “We try to put on the best PRCA rodeo we can.”
That is aided by the elite staff from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock firm that has been recognized as one of the top producers in ProRodeo. The team will arrive in town by mid-week and will be ready to showcase not only the top competition possible but also an incredible production. That includes announcer Andy Stewart and clown/entertainer Cody Sosebee, two larger-than-life pieces to the rodeo puzzle; both men have been selected to work the National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand championship.
“Cody was with us several years ago, and we are looking forward to having Cody back with us,” Hanson said. “He’s just one of the best in the entertainment business. He’s just a bundle of joy and relates so well with the kids. He’s so funny and will just constantly make you laugh.
“This will be Andy’s second year, and he’s been a great addition to our rodeo. He wants to see this rodeo bounce back from COVID. You can tell he really cares about our rodeo, and he definitely puts a lot of excitement into his announcing.”
The committee is adding a calf scramble for FFA and 4-H students. Once entered into the competition, they will battle to a $500 certificate that will go toward the winner’s ag project next year. The Junior Rodeo for Special Children will take place Saturday and will offer a chance to be a cowboy or cowgirl for children with special needs.
“We are looking forward to getting back to normal,” Hanson said. “We’re wanting people to come out and have a good time. It’s something we all need around here, and we’re glad we can put on our rodeo and hopefully help people move on.
“We are carrying on. We are going to get life back to normal and celebrate that.”