Junior rodeos kick off busy season in the ring
You are never too young to be a cowboy.
Cowboys and cowgirls as young as 5 years old will compete in the rodeo arena as part of the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA) Prescott Quad-Cities Youth Rodeo.
The organization is hosting the Arizona Junior High and High School Rodeo May 13-15, and the Prescott Junior Rodeo May 21-22 at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds.
Prescott hosted its first high school rodeo in 1984. Chino Valley resident Bucky Bates, whose sons participate in junior rodeo, said the purpose of the Prescott Quad-Cities Youth Rodeo is to "promote Western lifestyle and values. It promotes families, sportsmanship and competition."
The Bates, Garside and Mortensen youngsters are carrying on a family tradition of rodeoing - trying to fill the boots of their fathers and grandfathers.
Ten-year-old J. C. Mortensen has some large boots to fill. His grandfather is World Champion J.C. Trujillo.
Young J.C. started his rodeo career riding sheep when he was 3 years old. He switched to steers when he was 6. He also rides miniature bulls.
His goal is to join the Professional Bull Riders Association and win the world championship when he is 19 - which has never been done.
Taylor Garside, 11, has been competing in rodeos off and on for the past three years. She likes competing against other kids her age. Her favorite event is barrel racing on her palomino horse.
"I like my horse and she likes running barrels," Taylor said.
Taylor also plans to make it big in the rodeo world. She would like to run barrels at the National Finals Rodeo.
Jaxton Mortenson and Cooper Bates are first-graders at Del Rio Elementary School in Chino Valley.
Jaxton started riding sheep when he was 3 and now rides calves. He likes it when he wins but doesn't "like getting bucked off."
Cooper likes to rodeo because "sometimes I get checks."
He competes in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and team roping with his dad.
Fourth-grader Sam Garside said his entire family competes in rodeos. Team roping is his favorite event because he gets to rope with his father.
Lacey Garside started riding a horse when she was 2 years old and started rodeoing at 5. She competes in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, break-away, ribbon roping and team roping.
To anyone interested in rodeoing, Lacey gives this advice: "Work hard and get help from people who know what they are doing."
Fifth-grader Logan Bates has competed since he was 5 years old. He likes team roping with his dad, but doesn't like it "when I get out run," he said.
"The entire family comes - cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents," Lisa Bates said about rodeo.
She admits she does worry when someone wrecks, but luckily no one has been seriously hurt.
Rodeoing, she said, "Takes lots of time, practice and money."
During the April 30 PBR event at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, the Prescott AJRA will have a 50-50 raffle, and will sell tickets for a rifle raffle. All the proceeds will benefit youth rodeo.