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2002/05/09

Fowlkes Family Believe In Supporting Education by Kevin DeBusk Boots, spurs, western shirts and hats are more than clothing; they are a tradition of days gone by for Preston Fowlkes II and his family, of Fairview, Tennessee. Fowlkes and his family, wife Karen, daughters Rachael and Vanessa and son Preston III, have dedicated their life to rodeo and promoting its heritage. Fowlkes father Preston Fowlkes started Preston Fowlkes Rodeo Company fifty-four years ago in West, Texas, holding open rodeos. Today the Fowlkes family holds sanctioned rodeos for several associations, including the IPRA and PCA, through both Preston Fowlkes Rodeo Company and Preston III's Three Legends Rodeo Company. "This is part of our life," Fowlkes said smiling. "My son, my son-in-law and those that work with me wear boots, hats, spurs and western shirts everywhere they go. It's a part of what they are. It's their life and keeping the tradition of the old west alive." In keeping the tradition alive the family promotes rodeo and the lifestyle throughout the year across the country, but the most gratifying of those events is their annual Ranch Rodeo, held on their farm. The event began five years ago as a fundraiser for the Fairview High School girl's basketball team after Fowlkes learned from girls coach Ricky Bledsoe of the need for money. Fowlkes, whose daughters played for Bledsoe, told Bledsoe he would be interested in putting on a rodeo for them if they would help. Five years later, the event has grown into a weeklong educational event, capped off by two nights of rodeo and providing opportunities not only for the girls' basketball team but also several other groups. As part of the weeklong event, Fowlkes utilizes his funnyman in the school, teaching children about saying no to drugs and the importance of staying in school. They also have an evening set aside for an FFA fun night. This night includes steer doggin', steer riding, a hay toss and pie eating. "For me this is what it's all about," Fowlkes said while greeting neighbors. "What we are trying to do is show people what rodeo is. People think there's nothing to it." He continued saying what they are doing with the Ranch Rodeo is taking the opportunity to give kids in their small community the same opportunities those in larger ones have. "It makes me feel really good," Mrs. Fowlkes said while working souvenirs. "We're at the far end of the county and they don't get a lot of help. So, it's a good thing being able to give them something." "This has gone over great," coach Bledsoe said while working a concession stand. "The first year was exciting and it has gotten better each year. I have girls that graduate that come back to help, and since it started the FFA, soccer and Chamber have also gotten involved." Additionally, the ranch rodeo allows the Fowlkes to show the community their dedication to family. "We want you to come and bring your family," Fowlkes proudly said. "There is nothing here that will be said or done that will embarrass you or me." "We take pride in what we do and have fun at it," stated Mrs. Fowlkes. "We like for people to enjoy what we do and if we're not proud of what we do then it isn't a successful week, no matter what the gate says."

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