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Fri, Feb. 28

Cowboyin’ the ranch-hand way

Horses nicker, cattle bawl, a dog yips, and columns of campfire smoke drift above the peaks of canvas tepees. A scene out of the Old West? Nope, it’s another annual gathering of the Arizona Cowpuncher’s Reunion Association (ACRA) on the Williams rodeo grounds.

This is not your conventional rodeo with the conventional events for professional participants. Instead, it is truly a family celebration of the Arizona ranch cowboy’s lifestyle, uniting a kinship of family and friends.

This year’s 27th annual 2005 ACRA rodeo will be July 29, 30 and 31, with unique events extending throughout the reunion. Little tykes will try dummy roping, while older siblings enter the flag and barrel races, or bravely attempt steer riding. Any kid can participate in the chaotic, fun-filled calf scramble –  pull the ribbon off a calf’s tail and win $5.

Typical and not-so-typical rodeo events include wild-cow milking, wild-horse racing, dally calf roping and cowboy saddle bronc riding. The six different team roping events embrace all family members, from the youngsters and their parents to grandma and grandpa. Most of these contests closely parallel the daily ranch activities and lifestyle of the modern day working cowboy.

A NEW EVENT

This year a special event joins the activities. A bronc riding challenge has gone out to the winners of the National Ranch Rodeo saddle bronc riders, from Elko, Nev., and Amarillo, Texas, to compete against Arizona’s finest ranch roughstock contestants. The title of World Champion Ranch Bronc Rider, and a sizable purse from the Winchester Steakhouse in Williams will go to the winner.

The title, “Ranch Bronc Rider,” distinguishes between the professional rodeo hand and the ranch cowboy, who utilizes a traditional stock saddle with two cinches. This saddle is the same as those used for all ranch work done on horseback. In addition, he must ride with one hand free without slapping horse or saddle during the 8-

second ride. The rider cannot lose a stirrup at any time during the ride, and no fanning allowed.

HISTORY

The idea for the ACRA began in the early 1970s when a group of cowboys from northern and central Arizona, who had participated in the “working cowboy” rodeos of the 1920-40s era, decided it would be fun to recreate the events using the working cowboys of today.

The primary purpose of the ACRA today beyond promoting the camaraderie of the working cowboy, his family and friends, is as a non-profit group. The reunion weekend’s proceeds go to the Arizona Cowpuncher’s Scholarship Organization and the Arizona Cowpuncher’s Crisis Fund.

This year a trade show, lots of good food, a calcutta auction of bronc riders and team ropers, and a nightly barn dance round out the action-filled weekend.

More than half of the 1,058 members and their families are expected to participate, and even more will attend the reunion anticipating renewing old friendships.

For more information, call the Williams Chamber of Commerse at 800-863-0546, or www.williams

chamber.com.

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