High school rodeo makes its return to the McPherson County Fairgrounds, Canton, May 4-5.

High school rodeo makes its return to the McPherson County Fairgrounds, Canton, May 4-5.

The two-day rodeo is expected to bring several hundred participants and their families to the rodeo arena on the north edge Canton. It also will feature a junior high division for students in sixth through eighth grades. The action begins at noon Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Events will run throughout the afternoon on both days and is open to the public.

McPherson County Fair Board Vice President Trevin Prieb said this is the first time in 15 years a Kansas High School Rodeo Association sanctioned event will be at the Canton facility and the first ever sanctioned junior high rodeo in Canton.

“We are very excited to be part of the KHSRA schedule this year and hope that it will be an ongoing partnership,” Prieb said. “The community support to bring this event to Canton has been one of the primary reasons that Canton was selected to host the event along with our central location. “

Support for the event has included donations of money and sweat equity to make improvements at the arena, which annually hosts the McPherson County Fair Rodeo in July, as well as a number of other rodeo-related events throughout the year. Improvements included building an additional arena to the east of existing Tom Miller Arena, which will allow the high school and junior high rodeos to be conducted concurrently, upgrading electrical systems and adding stall space. Area oil producers played a big part in the effort to raise the necessary funds for the project along with a number of other area businesses and individuals. The arena is owned and maintained by the McPherson County Fair Board Association. Prieb said the fair board is pleased the facilities will be used for a youth event of this caliber.

The area has produced a number of rodeo participants, including several area students who are competing in the junior high and high school rodeo association and are expected to appear at the Canton event.

Rylin Rouse, 11, and a sixth-grade student at Canton-Galva Middle School, will be competing in barrel racing, ribbon roping and pole bending. She said she is excited to have the rodeo in Canton — equating it to competing in a home football or basketball game.

“It’s exciting because I have lots of friends and family in the area and they can come and see what I do,” Rylin said. “I’m also familiar with the arena. The new arena is beautiful.”

This is Rylin’s first year competing in the KHSRA’s junior high division, but she has been competing in rodeo events since she was 5. Her favorite event is barrel racing, and she said she and her barrel horse, Darlin, are really good friends. Rylin said rodeo has taught her a lot about animals as she takes responsibility for taking care of Darlin. She’s also made a lot of friends on the Kansas High School Rodeo Association circuit.

Rylin’s mother, Heidi Rouse, herself a competition barrel racer, said rodeo is a great family activity and just as valuable in teaching life lessons as any other competitive sport.

“The kids learn good sportsmanship, and they all encourage each other. They learn discipline and how to take on responsibility as they take care of their animals. It’s a lot of work — there are always chores to do — but it’s a wonderful activity,” Heidi Rouse said

Rouse said she is pleased Canton will host the rodeo. She said it is a wonderful opportunity for families who might be considering rodeo to come out and experience what it is all about.

Supplying the stock for the event will be another local connection, JC Rodeo Company from Roxbury. JC Rodeo Company has gained a national reputation for its quality stock and is a frequent stock supplier at rodeos across the region, a news release said. The company is the stock supplier for the McPherson County Fair Rodeo each year, which is a CPRA sanctioned event.

While many of the events at a junior high and high school rodeo will be the same as professional rodeos — including rough stock events — spectators will see a number of events unique to youth rodeo.

Options for cowgirls are expanded over the professional circuit and include, in addition to barrel racing, roping events, pole bending, goat tying and cutting.

Rodeo is not a sport recognized by the Kansas State High School Activities Association and is managed by the Kansas High School Rodeo Association. However, just like Kansas State High School Activities Association activities, students must be academically eligible to compete.

Participants do not have to attend a school with a rodeo team to compete in sanctioned events. And, just like other high school athletes, high school cowboys and cowgirls are eligible for college scholarships in their sport with a number of community and four-year colleges sponsoring rodeo teams that compete on the college circuit.

Students belonging to the Kansas High School Rodeo Association pay dues and entry fees to participate in sanctioned events, are responsible for their own horses and other equipment, and for transportation to and from rodeos.

Cowboys and cowgirls earn points at each rodeo to gain spots in the state championship rodeo in Topeka. High point competitors at the state rodeo advance to the National High School Championship Rodeo in 2013 in Rock Springs, Wyo., as part of the Kansas Rodeo Team. Champions at the Canton event will receive buckles for the All-Around Boys and bracelets for the All-Around Girls.

To learn more about the Kansas High School Rodeo Association, see its website at www.KHRSA.net or on Facebook. Local contacts for the Canton rodeo are Prieb and Vance Lacy.