LUMBERTON — Lumberton will take a ride on the wild side when the North American Professional Rodeo Association stampedes into town with a rodeo at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Center pavilion tonight and Saturday.
The gate will open at 6 p.m. each day and the rodeo action will begin at 8. Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 7 and up. Children ages 6 and under are free.
More than 100 cowboys and cowgirls from as far away as Texas and Oklahoma will compete in bull riding, saddle bronco riding, barrel racing, calf roping, and team roping. All the contestants will compete for cash and for points in the association’s end-of-year totals.
According to Paul Scoggins, director of operations, the event will feature mutton busting, during which children ages 6 and under ride on sheep. Scoggins said that any local children are eligible to partake in the mutton busting, but the event limits it to five children per night. The cost to register is $10.
According to Scoggins, there will be a special presentation honoring American Indians, and servicemen and women.
Rodeos have been a staple of American culture since the days of Buffalo Bill, when ranch cowboys would have competitions to determine who was the best at working cattle and breaking horses, Scoggins said.
“They’re good, clean American family entertainment,” he said. “This is grassroots; it’s part of our culture as Americans.”
The event could also give a needed lift to the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Center, which has come under scrutiny of lawmakers.
The state General Assembly has ordered a study to determine if it is possible for the facility to operate while limiting state funding of the facility’s total budget to 50 percent. If the study determines that it isn’t possible, the center could close or be turned over to a local government or private entity.
Michael Smith, manager of the agricultural center, said he’s hoping to see 1,000 people each night.
“We’ve had a lot of phone calls from people asking about it,” he said. “We’re anticipating a pretty good crowd. It looks like it’s gonna be a pretty good event.”
Supporters say that the $5 million multi-purpose pavilion, which opened in April, could be a lifesaver.
Scoggins said he’s impressed with the “beautiful” pavilion. He said his father owns a production company, and that this weekend’s rodeo is a “test run” to determine if they will bring future events to the pavilion.
“We would love to come back,” he said. “We want to come back maybe in the winter months and maybe do our finals or another rodeo event here, but we really need the support of the community.
“The only way for people in this area to keep something like this up and running is to support the events that come here,” he said. “… We want to help anything in North Carolina, because this place is too nice of a place to let it close up.”