Coweta Cattlemen’s Rodeo Friday, Saturday at fairgrounds
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include the correct adult ticket price of $12.
It’s rodeo weekend in Coweta County.
The 24th annual Coweta Cattlemen’s Rodeo will be Friday and Saturday at the Coweta County Fairgrounds.
The professional rodeo will feature bull riding, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, breakaway roping, team roping and barrel racing. And, of course, rodeo clowns.
There will also be kids activities including pony rides, a rock wall and bounce houses, and there will be several vendors, include food vendors and those selling Western wear and accessories.
Gates open at 6 p.m. and the grand entry is at 8 each night. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children 4 to 12. Children 3 and under enter free. Credit and debit cards are accepted. Friday is 4-H night. Musician Jonathan East will perform Saturday before the rodeo begins.
Proceeds benefit the Cattlemen’s Association, which awards scholarships to Coweta high school students.
Cowetan Nina (pronounced nine-nah) Sullivan will be competing Saturday night in breakaway roping. She’ll also be carrying flags during the grand entry.
Sullivan has been around rodeos her whole life, but spent many of her younger years riding English, competing in hunter jumper shows. She started jumping at the age of 4. “I competed pretty hardcore in hunter jumping until I was around 10. I just got burnt out on it,” she said. “From there I got my own horses and started riding Western. And everything changed.”
Western riding, and rodeo, is “more relaxed, and the people that I rodeo with, they are almost like another family,” Sullivan said. “It’s a very family-oriented sport, and I really love that. And it’s also a big Christian spot. We still pray before rodeos. That makes a big difference."
Sullivan is very close to the girls and guys that she rodeos with. “They are definitely my best friends,” she said.
Sullivan started out doing some “heading” in team roping, but never competed in it.
Sullivan’s father, Frank Sullivan, works for stock contractor Bubba Oubre. And one day, “my dad called me and said ‘hey, there are no breakaway ropers’” for an upcoming rodeo. He wanted her to complete.
“I was like – Dad!” she said. “I don’t even have a calf rope."
“He said ‘I’ve totally got you covered.’ He said ‘act like you know what you’re doing. It will be fine.’”
“And now, I’m totally addicted to it. I love it,” she said. Breakaway roping is a women’s rodeo event, similar to tie-down roping. But in breakaway, the rider simply ropes the calf, and doesn’t have to tie the calf’s legs. Once the rope is around the calf’s neck, the rider stops the horse and the rope pops off the saddle. Thus, the “breakaway.”
Team roping lassos may be more familiar. They are waxed and very stiff. “A calf rope is completely different,” Sullivan said. It’s very soft. “You put baby powder on them to keep them softer.”
She started off roping dummies, from a standing position. “Once you get in the practice pen and get on your horse, it takes a while to figure it out, at first. There’s a lot going on at one time, a lot of multitasking.”
You’ve got to control your horse, work the lasso, and rope a moving calf. “Trying to get your horse right there, it is a totally different ball game,” she said.
But “once you figure it out, it just kind of kicks in in your brain and you’re just doing it,” she said. “It’s one of those things, once you’ve figured it out … it’s all mental from then on.”
She does have “three dummies at my house that I am constantly roping,” Sullivan said. “Just keeping that muscle memory going.”
“Roping is a lot of sweat, a lot of hard work, but it’s completely worth it,” she said. “Once your rope pops off the end of your horn, it’s like a complete adrenaline rush … it’s really a fun, fun thing to do. Even when you’re breaking your back working so hard for it, you’re having fun."
Most females in rodeo are barrel racers. "I’ve played around with it some, but it just never really stuck,” Sullivan said of running barrels. “I didn’t get the adrenaline rush that I do from roping.”
Sullivan loves the rodeo life. And the traveling associated with it.
Rodeos are “real upbeat and high energy. And it’s just a lot of fun to go out there and do it,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun going out there, sitting around, talking to your friends before the show, after the show.
“I really love the energy that a rodeo puts off. It gets you all excited,” she said.
And every calf “is a new opportunity to shine and a new opportunity to win. That is the cool thing about it. You’re not a loser just because you miss one calf. The next night, you could go win a whole entire rodeo."
Sullivan, 20, is currently attending Dalton State College, where she is studying nursing. She’s planning to transfer to West Georgia Technical College this fall.
“I feel like I’m around horses enough that having a job away from horses might be a good thing,” Sullivan said.
“It’s hard to be just a complete rodeo cowboy or cowgirl. It’s hard to make a living that way,” she said. “I wouldn’t call it a hobby. It’s more of a lifestyle. But it’s a lifestyle where you have to have another job to support yourself, almost.”
For more information about the rodeo, visit www.cowetacattlemens.com . Advance tickets are available for purchase online.