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Rodeo comes to Farragut
FMS, FIS students slated to compete with pros in Dodge event

For most high school athletes competing against professionals in sports such as football, basketball or soccer is a dream yet to be attained, but for seven Farragut grade-school students that dream becomes reality Friday when the Dodge Rodeo comes to the outskirts of Farragut at 8 p.m., May 7.

Amanda Hutson, 10, Katherine Hutson, 12, Natalie Fletcher, 9, Carly Sanseverino, 11, Heather McFarlin, 11, Jacob Hannay, 14, and Lucinda Fletcher, 12, all students at Farragut Intermediate and Middle schools, hope that hours of practice on the back of a quarter horse pays off when the calf roping and barrel racing events get underway at the Prater Farms covered arena on Northshore Drive.

Marty Fletcher, mother of Natalie and Lucinda, and the granddaughter of the late landowner and rodeo aficionado W.H. Prater, said the girls and boys are excited about the National Cowboy Association rodeo that is about to take place this weekend.

“This will be a National Cowboy Association rodeo, an NCA event, and these children will be competing against the professional cowboys and cowgirls,” she said. “The children usually go to the Georgia Junior Rodeo in Resaca, about ten a year. There’s real tough competition down there and they’ve been working on roping, barrels and ridin’ bulls.”

Fletcher said the catalyst for the children’s interest in rodeo stemmed from her younger daughter Natalie, who at the age of four, got tired of being teased for not riding like her older sister Lucinda, who rode in equestrian-style events.

“My younger daughter was rough and tough and couldn’t ride,” Fletcher said. “Everybody made fun of her … so she got a little Shetland pony and started running around tires. So, we thought that this was cute and we started taking her around to some of these rodeos and the stock contractors would let her do an exhibition. The crowds loved it. She eventually moved up to more challenging events.”

Fletcher said that it wasn’t too long afterward that her daughter Lucinda caught the rodeo bug. She added that the family “hooked up with Travis Pressley, who is a former bull rider and now a professional rodeo clown, and he introduced us around and got us into the realm of things.”

“My sister got into it first,” Lucinda said about her interest in rodeo. “My great-grandfather and I used to watch rodeo on TV all the time. I was into riding saddlebreds and Natalie was into her thing. Then I went to go watch her at one of the rodeos and I just loved it. The music, the fast riding, it was so much fun.”

So, Lucinda dropped the equestrian-style riding for a quarter horse.

“A lot of my friends at school ride in rodeo,” she added, “and the other kids think it’s cool and they want to get into it.”

Lucinda said that, for her, soccer is too ordinary.

“I like being different,” she said.

Carly Sanseverino concurred with Lucinda about the fun of rodeo.

“You get to travel more,” Carly added about another bonus to being involved in rodeo. “I started out in Western pleasure riding and then I got into barrels and poles, then I came over here and got into roping. It’s fun.”

Carly, who plays for the FMS girls basketball team, added that she hopes to turn her passion for rodeo into a scholarship to college.

Maureen Leavitt, Carly’s mother, said her daughter has been enthusiastic about rodeo since she was in kindergarten.

“I don’t know how she really got into rodeo,” Leavitt said. “I think she was born with that feeling. We kept trying to dismiss it when the subject came up, but she was tough about it.”

Leavitt added that it took the family a long time to really get into rodeo because there was no other place to practice rodeo before the Prater Arena was built.

“Carly fully is intending to get a scholarship to do rodeo in college,” she said.

Jacob Hannay said that his parents were a little more skeptical of his interest in rodeo when he first approached them.

“Sure, that’ll happen,” Hannay said his parents said when the conversation took place. He added that his parents agreed to get him riding lessons after he saw the horses at Lakeside Stables, which is the portion of the Prater Farms housing the rodeo arena.

“I saw the horses and wanted to learn to ride,” he said. “I started taking lessons from Travis Pressley and moved up to ropin’.”

Hannay said he would have to practice a lot the week before the rodeo in order to be able to compete.

“I have a lot of hours to practice,” Hannay said, “You don’t get to use the same kind of rig the girls use to rope. You have to use your fingers and if you don’t do it right you can get your fingers ripped off.”

Pressley, who is overseeing the rodeo this weekend, said that the talent that comes to this rodeo wouldn’t be known until the cowboys and cowgirls began signing up.

“You don’t know who will be in the lineup until signup day,” he said. “Cowboys passing through the area will stop for the rodeo on their way to bigger rodeos. There is a large amount of prize money” and rodeo competitors the caliber of Cody Lee of Tucson, Ariz., Darrell Tripplett of Waterflow, N.M., Jeb Brown of Fowler, Colo., and Mandy Sproul of Pearce, Ariz., would be part of the event.

In addition to the talent the Farragut kids would be competing against, Pressley said that the concessions for the entire event would be donated to the Farragut Middle School cheerleaders.

“The cheerleaders will benefit from the concession sales at this year’s event,” he said about the rodeo, which is in its third year at Prater Farms. “Every year we give the proceeds to a charity. Last year it was S.T.A.R., the year before the heart association. If you’re going to live in a community; then you need to give back to the community. Everything (the cheerleaders) make is profit for them at no risk.”

The Dodge Rodeo, sponsored by Jim Cogdill Dodge, is at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 7-8, at Northshore Drive near the Farragut baseball fields. For more information about tickets for the event, call 865-388-9494.


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