Athens Review, Athens, Texas

March 15, 2012

Black Rodeo coming to Athens

Kathi Nailling
The Athens Review

Athens — Mark your calender now.

The Black Rodeo is  coming to Athens on June 16. Organizers of the rodeo say it will not only be entertaining, but may provide a much-needed history lesson.  History shows the black cowboy helped shape the west.

Black cowboy Bill Pickett invented an event that is now in every rodeo.  His invention,  called  bulldogging, is now referred to as steer-wrestling.

Pickett who was born in 1870, worked on a ranch, where he watched the cow dogs successfully herding steers, calves and bulls.

Pickett noticed that the cows gained control of the animals by biting the tender part of their upper lip.

Pickett tried it and it worked.  Even though steer-wrestling has been modified over the years, it is still a main event of many rodeos.

The Barker Cemetery Association will host the first Juneteenth Black Rodeo in Athens. The rodeo will benefit the upkeep of the historical Barker Cemetery.

The organizers of the rodeo have enlisted the help of Frank “Penny” Edwards, president of the Real Cowboy Association, located in Longview.

Edwards, who has been producing rodeos for 30 years, believes the rodeo will not only be entertaining, but educational. Edwards says they will bring Athens “The Baddest Show on Dirt.”

“Kids don't know about the black cowboy. They don't know the history. You don't see many black cowboys on TV,” said Edwards. 

Edwards said “Every rodeo we produce has some major entertainment. We are talking to a number of people about putting on a concert during the rodeo.”

The RCA produces rodeos that are dedicated to community involvement and diversified family entertainment. Edwards will produce rodeos in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana in 2012.

Larry West of Athens is helping to organize and generate sponsorships for the event. West hopes the Black Rodeo will become a yearly event.  Henderson County Fair Park officials say the rodeo is good for the community, and good  for Fair Park.

Lone Star Western and Casual in Athens will be just one of the sponsors of the rodeo.

“The community is excited about this rodeo. It is just one more thing our community has to offer” says Joe Masso owner of Lone Star Western and Casual.

Some of the other local sponsors of the rodeo include Athens Economical Development Corporation, Jakes Fire Works, First State Bank of Athens, Prosperity Bank, Barney and McClellan and Associates, St. John Baptist Church, Chamber Paint and Body, Brookshire’s Grocery Store, East Texas Medical Center, North Athens Cemetery and Athens NAACP.

The rodeo is a 501 (c)(3) non profit event. All donations and sponsorships are tax-deductible.

West admits that taking on a project of this magnitude can be overwhelming, but he believes the community will come through. The City Athens and Athens Chamber of Commerce are promoting the rodeo on their websites.

For sponsorship information, West can be reached at 903-681-5411 or by e-mail eugene53@centurylink.net.

If West is unavailable, contact Jeffrey Enoch at 903-275-9468.