The University of Georgia's Block and Bridle Club is gearing up for the 40th annual Great Southland Stampede Rodeo, that will roll into Athens April 10-12 at the UGA Livestock Instructional Arena in Athens.
Gates will open at 6 p.m. each night, and the rodeo will start at 8 p.m. at the venue at 2600 South Milledge Ave.
Cowboys and cowgirls from across the country will be in town to show off their skills and battle for top rodeo rankings at the International Professional Rodeo Association-sanctioned event.
Carrying on a tradition
“This is a 40-year tradition that the folks who came before us have helped to keep alive here in Athens, and we’re excited to be able to share that tradition with the Northeast Georgia community again this year and for 40 more years to come.”
About 100 student volunteers from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences worked for months to prepare the rodeo. Since 1974, the event has introduced thousands of UGA students and Northeast Georgians to the world of steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding.
Students use proceeds from the rodeo to support Block and Bridle Club events and to fund an academic scholarship.
Raising funds for non-profits
This year’s rodeo kicks off April 10 with "Tough Enough to Be a Dawg" student night. Students can purchase tickets at the door for $10 with a valid UGA identification card.
April 11 is "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" night. The rodeo organizers will donate $1,000 to the Breast Health Center at Athens Regional Medical Center. Attendees are encouraged to wear pink in support of those who have battled and survived breast cancer.
April 12 is "Tough Enough to Serve" night, recognizing the service of America's military men and women. Attendees are encouraged to wear red, white and blue in support of American soldiers. Organizers will donate $1,000 to Faces of Freedom, a combat veterans support organization spearheaded by Col. Michael Steele, a UGA alumnus, former Bulldog football player and retired U.S. Army officer.
The Block and Bridle Club has expanded the children's activities available before and during the rodeo. There will be face painting, pony rides, a petting zoo, photo booth cutouts and rodeo-themed games. There also will be a wider variety of food vendors with more child-friendly menu options.
UGA alumnus and professional rodeo announcer Roger Mooney will provide commentary. Events will include saddle and bareback bronc riding, breakaway roping, barrel racing, team roping, steer wrestling and Brahman bull riding.
Preorder discounted tickets
Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children under 12. Children 3 and under are free. For more information or to preorder discounted tickets of $10 for children and $12 for adults, call (706) 542-9374 or visit www.GreatSouthlandStampedeRodeo.com.
Seating is limited. Doors will be closed to general admission once attendance has reached maximum capacity. The arena is a covered venue, and the event will take place rain or shine.
(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)