Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rodeo east of the Mississippi.....

GERRY, NEW YORK - RODEO HISTORY EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI - This 1946 photo shows preparation of locals for the Gerry, New York Rodeo. The tiny hamlet of Gerry--just north of Jamestown--recently celebrated its 65th consecutive rodeo, the site of the longest running PRCA rodeo east of the Mississippi. For five days this quiet little village becomes "The Rodeo Capital of the East" as cowboys and cowgirls roll into town and pay their entry fees to vie for more than $25,000 in prize money at the 6-day rodeo. Sponsored by the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department, the rodeo got its start in 1945 when a former real-life cowboy named Jack Cox moved from the West to this New York town and suggested a rodeo as a way of raising money for the newly-formed fire department. Many doubted that the idea would work, but his dream became a reality as members of the department and other volunteers in 70 days turned four acres of swampland into an arena and parking lot in time for the arrival of the renowned Colonel Jim Eskew and his rodeo livestock that first year. Bleachers were borrowed from area schools and portable lights were rented.
In those early days the stock arrived by train in the middle of the town, traffic was stopped, and the animals were herded down the middle of Route 60 to the rodeo grounds by volunteers--making for some exciting moments. Today, the stock arrives by semi-trucks & trailers, but the excitement of rodeo time still fills the air. Several hundred volunteers of all ages pitch-in to make the event possible each year, filling jobs from painting fences to washing dishes. Many residents take their vacation just to volunteer, and others who have moved away return to help.

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