Three days of competition over Labor Day Weekend

By JB Miller

Billed as "The best little rodeo in Arizona," the 91st Annual Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo will feature three days of competitive ridin' and ropin' with the country's toughest cowboys pitting their skills against some outstanding livestock.

Gates will open at 8 a.m., Sept. 2, and events will continue through Sept. 4 at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds just 1/4 mile south of the intersection of State Routes 82 and 83. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-12. Kids 4 and younger get in free

Kids' event

On Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m., the Kid's Rodeo will kick off with little buckaroos 12 and under competing in events that include Mutton Bustin', Pee Wee Barrel Racing, and Steer Riding.

Folks will want to catch the grand entry on opening day, which will feature the new rodeo queen riding with all her attendants. Also, back by popular demand, will be the ladies' drill team Las Vaqueras de Tucson. This will be the third year for them.

Yeeeehaaaa!

Then hang onto your hats for the adult rodeo, which will feature classic Western events such as saddle-bronc riding, bareback riding, calf roping, steer roping, team roping, barrel racing, bull riding and something else you don't usually see back on the ranch - a wild horse race. "We start off with the wild horse race," said Brenda McDaniel, who is chairman of this year's rodeo. "It's a really exciting event that everyone likes to get into." McDaniel said they had more than 700 entries in last year's rodeo and more than $40,000 in cash and prizes was awarded.

This year's rodeo is dedicated to the Santa Cruz County Cowbelles who will be doing their presentation on Sunday, riding in on horseback and by wagon. Folks will also recognize the voice of announcer Dan Fowlie who has come down from Phoenix the last 16 years to cover the Labor Day rodeo.

"He's very entertaining," said McDaniel. "A lot of fun." Something new this year will be rodeo clown Jeff Garner who is sure to bust a few guts with his hilarious "airplane act." McDaniel said Garner is highly recommended and has performed across the country.

Hoofin' it

After the rodeo on Saturday and Sunday, folks can stick around for the Steak Fry at Pioneer Hall where for $13 per plate you can chow down like a cattle baron and help support the Elgin Club. There will also be a Rodeo Dance from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (admission is free) with live music from Crossroads - "a versatile and energetic band from Safford that plays everything from country to rock to Latin rhythms."

While Saturday night in Sonoita might be a late one for more than a few cowpokes who decide to cut the wolf loose, they won't want to sleep in too late.

The big raffle will be Sunday afternoon before the bull riding where folks can win golfing and lodging at the Tubac golf course, a dinner at The Steak Out, two nights lodging at La Hacienda de Sonoita, and dinner at Caf/ Sonoita. Tickets are $5 for one or 5 for $20 and may be purchased at the fairgrounds office or Stockman's Bank in Sonoita. And if you ended up in the hoosegow - no problema. You don't have to be present to win.

At the turn of the last century, the area that included Sonoita, Patagonia, Elgin, and Canelo was settled by a small population of people, who for the most part, lived far away from each other. The Santa Cruz County Fair was established in 1915 as a means for neighbors to get together. Call (520) 455-5553 for more information or check out Web site at sonoitafairgrounds.com.