Story by Ruth Nicolaus Because of his parents, Scott and Jenee Holub, and his granddad, George Rachau, Dillin Holub is involved in the sport he […]
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Rodeo Spotlight Benton Rodeo
story by Lily Weinacht
The Benton Championship Rodeo celebrates its 35th year this summer, drawing in contestants from all over the East Coast and as far as Canada for a three-day rodeo July 18–20. Produced wholly by volunteers, the Benton Rodeo features the standard eight APRA events and is co-sanctioned IPRA, while also carrying on rodeo traditions such as mutton busting and a calf scramble. “We have three nights of rodeo, and Tuesday night, we have a Fun Night. The Benton Area Fun Show Group puts on a fun show for the kids and adults with events like barrel racing and key hole,” says Benton Rodeo Chairman Melvin Parks. “On Wednesday night we have a 3D barrel race. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights are the rodeos, and Sunday night is the Bull-A-Rama.”
This will be the 25th year Rawhide Rodeo Company has produced the rodeo at Benton, from specialty acts to the bucking bulls. Comprising roughly 19 acres of ground, the Benton Rodeo Association offers one of the best outdoor arenas on the East Coast. It seats just over 3,000 people, and fills nearly every seat on Saturday and Sunday. “The rodeo got started by a group of local businessmen and local people that wanted to see about bringing something in that would help the area out. A gentleman by the name of Charlie Lamont was the starter for the Special Kids program. The first couple of years they had it in a field outside of Benton where they set up hay bales for bleachers. Then they were able to get the ground where it’s at now. It’s been a work in progress and we’re trying to do improvements each year,” says Melvin. A native of Benton, he’s been involved in the rodeo since its early years, first as a vendor advertising his fencing company, and later running a pizza stand until he was named chairman in 2009. Now retired, much of his time is devoted to the Benton Rodeo.
A non-profit organization, the Benton Rodeo runs on many volunteers, along with vendors, such as church groups who run food stands, and the Boy Scouts, who direct parking and run concessions. “The Lions Club is there selling ice cream and we have the Fire Company that does the French fries.” The rodeo also pours back in to the Benton community by donating money from a horse raffle to charities such as the Ronald McDonald House. Saturday, July 20, features the 25th Leukemia/Lymphoma Society of America Benton Rodeo Run, while Rawhide Rodeo puts on a Special Kids Roundup on Saturday morning as well.
The rodeo goes on rain or shine and has never missed a performance in 34 years and counting. “One year, a storm knocked out our electricity the night of the rodeo and we had lots of rain. The fire company came out with trucks and lights, and everybody rounded up their generators and we put on a rodeo that night,” says Melvin. The community has rallied around the rodeo more than once, making repairs after severe flooding in 2018. A tornado in early April this year also damaged several buildings, but they had a work day organized by the end of the month. The community football league, the Benton Maniacs, uses the Benton Rodeo’s parking area for football practice, and contributes their skills as construction workers and other occupations to maintain the grounds and buildings.
“We have a total of 600 shareholders, and out of those we have 35 that are active workers and helpers,” says Melvin. “Everybody pulls together around here and helps each other out. We just hope and pray for a better year each year than the one before.” For more information, visit bentonrodeo.com.