Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry and his son participate in the stick horse races at the mini rodeo on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. / W.C. Mann
CULLMAN – Sheriff Matt Gentry called it the “heart and soul of the sheriff’s office.” On Thursday morning, the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) kicked off its annual Jimmy Arrington Memorial Rodeo with a special mini rodeo for the county’s special needs community. Approximately 1,300 attendees filled the stands at the Cullman County Agricultural Trade Center, while hundreds of community volunteers and CCSO deputies (many of whom were also volunteering their off-duty hours) came out to help.
The event featured typical rodeo events like calf roping for men, break-away roping for ladies, team roping, bull and bronco riding, and ladies’ and juniors’ barrel racing. And this was no play rodeo; while it was an exhibition, the riders and ropers were members of the Professional Cowboy Association, and will compete in Friday and Saturday night’s pro events. The other sheriff, “Sheriff Woody,” and veteran rodeo clown Dusty kept the crowd laughing, cheering and generally fired up.
After the regular rodeo events concluded, the arena floor opened to the audience. Students, assisted by volunteers and rodeo staff, barrel raced on stick horses, tried their hands at roping dummy calves and took hayrides in wagons pulled by deputy-driven tractors. At every step, deputies and volunteers lent helping hands to make sure that students’ limitations wouldn’t limit their fun.
Every public school in the county system sent its special needs students, and Cullman County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette was on hand to join in the fun.
Said Barnette, “It’s one of the greatest events we have during the year. I’ll tell you, I appreciate the sheriff so much for doing this, because the kids look forward to this. I mean, when they come back to school in the fall, they start asking about when the special needs rodeo is. It’s a great event.”
Gentry, between handshakes and stick horse rides (Yes, the sheriff rode stick horses, and he didn’t get thrown off once!), said, “When you can come here and you can see all these kids smiling, and deputies smiling, and everybody being together, you know, that’s a thing to brag on, to show how strong our community is on law enforcement. There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of good times.”
William Gentry, the sheriff’s part-time assistant and full-time son, added, “It’s pretty good. A lot of people are enjoying it. It’s fun to come help!”
The CCSO Jimmy Arrington Memorial Rodeo continues Friday and Saturday evenings with pro events. On Saturday evening, the sheriff will give away a rifle, shotgun and custom saddle.
In a previous interview, sheriff Gentry said, “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.”
At a glance
Cullman County Sheriff’s Office Jimmy Arrington Memorial Rodeo
Cullman County Agricultural Trade Center, 17645 U.S. Highway 31 N
PCA pro rodeo Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9, gates open at 5:30 p.m.
Admission $10 adults, $8 students ages 6-18
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