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Liberty Bowl Rodeo


2011 AutoZone Liberty Bowl Rodeo
Photos and story by Pam Gamble

The Liberty Bowl Rodeo, December 28 at the Agricenter Show Place Arena, was a sold out event, which had the bleachers shaking as popular rock tunes filled the air and set the beat for spectators’ clapping.  Most of the young people watching sported cowboy hats, jeans and the popular bling of sparkling rhinestones. Each event in this Pro Rodeo was more exciting than the one before, with the popular and dangerous bull riding as the finale.

The Opening Ceremonies were highlighted by the presentation of the American Flag on horseback by Miss Rodeo USA 2011, Katie Barger. She was joined by Miss Autozone Liberty Bowl 2011, Andi Kaufman, and Jaci Rene Baker, Rodeo of the Mid South Princess. A drill team consisting of drummer, flag-bearer and two dancers called “Our Colonial Roots” added color to the patriotic Liberty Bowl theme.

Kids were invited to participate in the traditional One Shoe Race. In this race, participants had to take off one shoe and leave it at one end of the arena. Then, they had to race down the arena, put on their missing shoe, and race back to the finish line. The winner won a $100.00 gift certificate to Sports Authority.  Allie Grooms from Memphis, TN, a 6th grader at Macon Road Baptist School, was the run-away winner.

Rodeo clown, three-time Funny Man of the Year, Dusty Myers, performed a rocket themed skit and pulled out jokes in the interim, when the cowboys needed more time to secure the bull or broncs before the next ride. Dusty has a unique understanding of what it take to be a rodeo cowboy, as he used to be just that.  After injuring himself, he started clowning, and never looked back.

According to Dann Gann, International Professional Rodeo Association or IPRA Secretary, the rodeo brought big names to the arena. “Several world champions competed at that rodeo. Josh Cragar, from Columbia TN, who is world champion bareback rider, was there. 2001 world bareback champion Raymond Cooper was there.  Former team roping champion Chad Masters was there.  Cody Nance, the bull riding winner, is on the PBR World Cup tour.  The stock contractor Mark Johnson with Universal Rodeo has won multiple awards with his bucking stock. Many were just featured at the International Finals Rodeo.  It was a great event!”

The big winners were as follows:

Steer Wrestling Champion with a time of 6.0: Jordan Thrasher-Culleoka, TN
Tie Down Roping Champion with a time of 8.7: Glen Jackson-Beggs, OK
Team Roping Champions with a time of 4.7: Chad Masters-Gorman, TX and Sam Smith-Athens, AL
Saddle Bronc Champion with a score of 82: Will Abshure-Ward, AR
Bareback Riding Champion with a score of 76: Raymond Cooper-Center Ridge, AR
Barrel Racing Champion with a time of 14.024: Taylor Smith-Murray, KY
Bull Riding Champion with a score of 83 on Hillbilly Bones: Cody Nance-Paris, TN

The Liberty Bowl began in Philadelphia in 1959 .  Because of the cold weather, it never thrived.  In 1965 the game was moved south to Memphis and it was sucessful from that time forward. 

Even though the event took place in late December, it was considered to be the first rodeo of the 2012 season. 
2011 marked the twenty-fourth year that the Liberty Bowl Rodeo has taken place. The rodeo benefited hometown charity St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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