Rodeo Approaches

GERRY – Starting this coming Wednesday, do you know where you can go for affordable, live entertainment and a quality meal that benefits a great cause?

If you said “Rodeo City in Gerry” then you’re probably already set to visit the oldest consecutive rodeo east of the Mississippi. Action at the 69th annual Gerry Rodeo will run Wednesday through Saturday, with four evening performances at 8 p.m. and a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. There is also a free children’s rodeo at 11 a.m. Saturday.

For many rodeo fans, the action in the ring is only part of the adventure as the famous beef barbecue dinners will be served again from 5-8 p.m. The dinners feature beef cooked outdoors over an open fire and served with a secret recipe sauce. The sides include deep-fried potatoes, corn, salad, cottage cheese, ice cream and a drink. People can enjoy the meals in the air-conditioned dining room or outside in the porch area. There is also a lighted midway featuring concession stands with more than 20 vendors offering everything from fried dough to Western wear.

All the proceeds from the rodeo go toward the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department. According to the event’s website – www.gerryrodeo.org – Jack Cox moved to Gerry in 1945, and suggested a rodeo as a way of raising money for the newly formed fire department. His idea became a reality as members of the department in 70 days turned 4 acres of swamp into an arena and parking lot.

Now, 69 years later, the rodeo features a modern, well-lighted arena that seats 4,000 people.

Tom Atwell, Gerry Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief, said how much the rodeo makes for the department each year varies on the weather. He said without the proceeds, the department wouldn’t have a new trailer that hauls an ATV for rescue missions in the woods, it wouldn’t have a fully equipped $110,000 ambulance with a stretcher that costs around $6,000 and a heart monitor machine that cost $15,000 and they wouldn’t have two engines and a tanker to fight fires.

“I don’t think people realize how much we rely on the rodeo,” Atwell said.

Besides vehicles, proceeds from the rodeo also go toward equipment for the 30 volunteers in the department.

“To outfit a firefighter these days costs at least $5,000,” Atwell said. “The money also goes toward maintenance and costs for (the fire hall), and for gas.”

Money goes toward training each volunteer so they are certified to perform the duties that are an invaluable service to the community. Atwell said each of the department’s emergency medical technician has to receive 130 hours of training and a firefighter 1 has to receive more than 90 hours to be certified. The Gerry Volunteer Fire Department members also have to continually receive training to maintain their certifications.

“We receive 350 calls a year,” he said. “We cover everything from a car accident to a house fire.”

Proceeds from the annual rodeo go toward new events like this year with the debut of Bulls & Barrels in June at Rodeo City.

“It pays for new acts. We try to keep things fresh,” Atwell said.

More than 125 professional cowboys and cowgirls will compete for $40,000 in prize money in seven rodeo events. Competitive rodeo events include: bareback and saddle bronc riding; tie-down roping; bull riding; team roping; steer wrestling; and barrel racing.