There was a lot of hootin' and hollerin' at The Old Frontier last weekend for the inaugural pro rodeo. Old Frontier Chairman Chris Smith said the bleachers around the arena seated 2,700, and there was standing-room only last Saturday night. The crowd on Saturday was estimated at 3,500. Friday night's show was less attended due to the rain.
"I'm very impressed with the crowd here in Thomson," said rodeo clown Matt Merritt, who is from Olin, N.C. "It rained and everybody still stayed. They yell for everything they're supposed to yell for and boo for everything they're supposed to boo for. They're great."
In fact, the crowd yelled so much Saturday night that it made Mr. Merritt curious.
"Who's rootin' for the cows and horses?" he asked the crowd. When they responded with cheering and applause, he responded, "They're the rednecks. They came to see somebody get hurt."
He then asked "who's rootin' for the cowboys?" and "who's rootin' for no reason at all?" and received a loud ovation each time.
Those participating in the rodeo were real cowboys and cowgirls - all of whom seemed to enjoy performing before the large audience on Saturday night.
One of them included Jeremy Nice, of Jackson, Mo.
"This is a lifestyle," Mr. Nice said. "It's not a job."
The former Illinois native, who used to wrestle in high school and at Central Missouri State University, said he believes that everyone is blessed with a niche in life and that his is riding bucking horses.
"It's really a lot of fun," Mr. Nice said, noting that he plans to participate in rodeos "for as long as the Lord will allow me, to."
Following the competition in Thomson, Mr. Nice and some of his cowboy friends left en route to perform in another rodeo in Shady Dale, Ga.
Aside from the cowboys, there also was a number of cowgirls who competed in various events.
Taylor Owens, of Simpsonville, S.C., was one of them.
"It's an adrenaline rush to catch a calf," Miss Owens said. "Afterwards, it makes you feel good. Then you pat your horse to let him know you're proud of his performance, too."
Miss Owens formerly competed in rodeo competitions while in high school and admitted that she's been "a real cowgirl" since she was a little girl.
She is a rising junior at Clemson University and studying to become a veterinarian.
Mr. Smith said the rodeo was held to raise funds for the Old Frontier's newest program for special needs children called Jabez Therapeutic Riding, Inc. A 1982 Mercedes Benz was raffled off during the rodeo for the program. McDuffie County's Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jim Franklin was the winner of the raffle.
"I haven't seen it yet, so I don't know," Dr. Franklin said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Mirror. "It's pretty exciting, I was very surprised, of course. ... I'm looking forward to getting it and putting it on the road."
Even though the bucking chutes and bleachers are still being packed away, Mr. Smith said plans are already in the works to bring the rodeo back next year.
"We want everybody to go ahead and get it on their calendars and come back out," he said.
For more information on The Old Frontier or Jabez Therapeutic Riding, call Mr. Smith at 706-533-2544.
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