Sheriff Matt Gentry talks about the rodeo. This year’s saddle, which will be raffled Saturday night, may be viewed at the Cullman County Courthouse. / W.C. Mann
CULLMAN – It’s really not a Christmas event, but it still helps make this the “most wonderful time of the year” for a lot of folks. The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Jimmy Arrington Memorial Rodeo is coming back to the Cullman County Agricultural Trade Center Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8 and 9, with the popular mini rodeo for people with special needs on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 7. More than 3,000 spectators are anticipated on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Begun in 1998, the Sheriff’s Rodeo is the office’s primary fundraising event, providing money for deputies’ ballistic vests and department computers, as well as community events including the Citizens’ Academy, firearms safety classes and self-defense classes. Proceeds also fund a scholarship at Wallace State for students pursuing careers in law enforcement.
Additionally, rodeo funds allow substantial contributions to be made to local schools. On Oct. 5, Sheriff Matt Gentry and the Rodeo Committee donated $15,500 from the proceeds of the 2016 rodeo to Cullman County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette and Cullman City Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Patterson, to be divided among the 31 area schools that serve special needs children.
Gentry shared, “Our rodeo is kind of a year-long project for us, getting it organized and getting everything in place. Next week will be a week-long process for us, to get ready for the rodeo, which is a three-day event.
“We start on Thursday with the special needs rodeo. We’re looking at having about 1,300 kids this year, and then we’ll probably have another 500 people that are volunteers or helping with the special needs rodeo. We’ll have a mini rodeo for the kids, and then we’ll do our stick horse races, roping and our hay rides.
“Our regular rodeo is Friday and Saturday night. 4L and Diamond S are our stock contractors. Adam Gibbs, who is a local announcer, will be one of the announcers for the rodeo, and Adam does a great job.”
The Friday-Saturday pro rodeo is a sanctioned event that officially kicks off the Professional Cowboy Association (PCA) 2018 rodeo season, and competitors can get points toward their overall standing. It’s a big deal on the circuit, but in Cullman there’s a bigger deal for the sheriff.
“The big thing about it for me,” said Gentry, “number one is that special needs rodeo. If you can attend the special needs rodeo, I’ll tell you what–it’s life-changing to see, bringing happiness to that many children. And that’s important for me and all the deputies here.
“Friday and Saturday night’s a way to bring all the citizens in Cullman County and all the deputies together in one event, for just good wholesome fun, so that we can be together with our families and have laughter, and just share a good experience.”
On Saturday night, the CCSO will raffle off the following items:
–Custom, handmade saddle valued at $1,600
–Stoeger 3500 12-gauge shotgun in Realtree camouflage, which typically sells for around $700
–Thompson Center Venture Predator .308 bolt action rifle in Realtree camouflage, which typically sells for around $475
The CCSO also received a pair of custom .45 Glocks from the Donald Reese family. Each is unique, but both share such features as compensated barrels, extended magazine releases, flared magazine well ports and electronic optics. Both will be auctioned at the rodeo sponsors’ dinner Thursday evening.
When his family presented the prizes in October, Reese said, “We thank the sheriff’s department for everything they do, and we really appreciate what they do for the special needs children in this county.”
Gentry concluded, “It’s just good, clean fun for families here, and that’s our goal with it. Our goal is to bring the community and the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office together, and enjoy an event like the rodeo. We look forward to seeing everyone come to the rodeo, and we want all of our citizens to come that can come. And I just can’t thank all the deputies enough that put all their heart and soul into making this a successful event. Our deputies and the ones that run the rodeo care about it, they love it, they love what it does for the community. I can’t commend them enough.”
At a glance
Cullman County Sheriff’s Office Jimmy Arrington Memorial Rodeo
Cullman County Agricultural Trade Center, 17645 U.S. Highway 31 N
Special needs mini rodeo Thursday, Dec. 7, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
PCA pro rodeo Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9, gates open at 5:30
Advance tickets: $10 adults, $8 students 6-18; available at the CCSO, Jack’s Western Wear and Traditions Bank
For more information, contact the CCSO at 256-734-0342.
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