Alabama High School Rodeo season kicks off in LaFayette
LaFAYETTE — On Saturday, the Chambers County Rodeo Arena played host to the opening round of this year’s Alabama High School Rodeo season. A total of 110 of the state’s top high school rodeo performers are participating in this year’s competition, all hoping to do well in the state finals. They are competing for titles such as Best Cowboy, Best Cowgirl, and champion in events such as bareback riding, breakaway, tie-down, pole bending, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, bull riding, boy’s cutting, girl’s cutting, RCH, trap and light rifle competition.
Fresh off competing in the national junior high school finals, Chambers Academy sophomore Allyson Noles competed in the barrel racing, pole bending and goat tie-down events in the 2021 opening day event.
She’s the daughter of Andy and Ashley Noles and niece of Chambers Academy head football coach and athletic director Jason Allen.
“Allyson has been doing this since she was five years old,” said her mom. “This is her third year in rodeo. She has won saddles, buckles and state titles. She’s in a sport that can help prepare her for a professional career after high school. Rodeo performers learn responsibility, time management and money management.”
Ashley competed in rodeo when she was Allyson’s age. Allyson is now following in mom’s footsteps. When she was in high school, Ashley competed in barrel racing, pole bending and the goat tie-down.
Allyson has a sports-minded younger brother named A.J.
He’s in the seventh grade at Chambers this year,” said Ashley. “He plays football, basketball and is on the bass fishing team.”
This coming Friday, Allyson will be participating in pre-game activities in Chambers Academy’s homecoming football game. She will be riding her favorite horse on the field of Torbert-Allen Stadium while carrying the U.S. flag.
“Rodeo is a true American sport,” said long-time Chambers County rodeo promoter Eddie Adams. “We stand for the anthem and kneel when we are praying.”
Winners at the state level earn the right to compete in the national finals. This year’s high school finals will be in Gillette, Wyoming and the junior high finals in Perry, Georgia.
On Saturday, Alabama High School Rodeo Queen Emma Watts of St. Stephens, Alabama, rode her horse while carrying the U.S. flag. She circled the rodeo arena alongside Taylor Vaughan of Spanish Fort, Alabama, who rode her horse while displaying the Alabama state flag. They were followed by a parade of horseback riders carrying the flags of sponsors such as Cinch Jeans, Dodge Ram Trucks and W.W. Livestock Handling Equipment.
Harvey Bradbury, president of the national division of the Alabama Rodeo Association, said he once tried to explain rodeo to someone who didn’t know much about it.
“It must be a poor man’s sport,” the man said to him.
“If you think that, you have never been to a rodeo,” he said. “The people who come here come in expensive motor homes. They are very well equipped and take very good care of their animals. I would not describe them as poor. I think they are doing pretty well.”
Emma Watts is in her third year as the state’s rodeo queen.
“The reason I wanted to run for rodeo queen is that I could do two things I loved: rodeo and meeting new people,” she said. “I like to talk to people about rodeo, encourage them to join our association and to just watch the action.”
The Alabama High School Rodeo Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and has been in existence for more than 40 years. They are a member of the National High School Rodeo Association based in Denver, Colorado.
High school students from the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida compete in approximately 10 rodeos each year.