‘Thousands’ flock to Liberty Hill for rodeo

A cowboy is cleared from his bucking bronc by Carter Davis at the Liberty Hill Open Rodeo April 8. (Alex Rubio Photo)

A cowboy is cleared from his bucking bronc by Carter Davis at the Liberty Hill Open Rodeo April 8. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Christine Bolaños

Thousands of people took part in Liberty Hill’s Open Rodeo last weekend to enjoy favorites such as steer roping and new features such as high school competitions.

According to rodeo representatives, more than 4,000 people attended events each night. The entire event ran from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.

Results include $25,516 in open rodeo payout, two all-around saddles, 11 buckles and two $500 Liberty Hill High School scholarships presented to Jordan Marsh and Carley Maples.

Organizers say participants came from all over Texas and across state lines including Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico.

“It’s bringing in a lot of revenue to our town and that’s really what any town needs,” explained Corey Ross, pastor and founder of Williamson County Cowboy Church, which is located on the land where the rodeo took place.

“I’m not talking about a one-night concert like Leander has that’s normally just town people and people from around Austin. This is bringing in people from different parts of the country.”

He knows of a family that traveled from Cheyenne, Wyoming and a lady who flew from New York State to Liberty Hill in order to enjoy the rodeo.

There is also wide representation from Liberty Hill as well as neighboring communities such as Marble Falls, Burnet and Georgetown.

He said the City of Liberty Hill gave coordinators $15,000 to use for the rodeo.

“It’s encouraging for the City to get behind the rodeo,” Ross said. “Those cowboys and cowgirls all ate at our restaurants, filled up at our gas stations and spent money in our businesses. It’s a benefit to have these kind of events.”

Repeated attempts to contact city leadership for comments by press time were unsuccessful. Ross said after this weekend’s success, event coordinators are considering extending the rodeo by one day.

“We’re contemplating going to a Thursday night performance,” Ross said. “That just increased people in our town.”

Ross emphasized that while the church hosts the event, the rodeo itself, is a collaboration effort among many individuals, organizations and businesses within Liberty Hill.

“This rodeo is huge as far as their enjoyment and entertainment for our city,” he said. “There’s a unity of our town. Everybody all wants to come out to the rodeo.”

One example of this is how an insurance company worked with Liberty Hill ISD to plan a field trip for youngsters. Two-hundred and ninety-seven second graders from Bill Burden Elementary got hands-on learning experiences through a field trip to the rodeo during the slack on Friday. They watched some performances, pet some longhorns, practiced dummy-roping a calf, participated in a scramble where four bicycles were given away and more. Ross said the Chuckwagon Harvest Ranch Band performing for them was the icing on the cake.

“John Clark with Farmers Insurance did a fantastic job on that event,” Ross said.

He said Clark is still receiving emails from parents and teachers about the field trip’s success.

“About how it’s the best field trip they’ve (children) ever been on,” Ross said. “All that brings the town together. Plus, it’s very family-oriented.”

Clark said children were rotated through eight rodeo stations, which included everything from learning how to rope a steer to a kettle corn and fiddling station. He said he was surprised to learn many of the children had never been to a rodeo before, pet an animal or ridden a pony.

The rodeo also featured the first-ever high school challenge that included Liberty Hill High School, Vista Ridge High School, Florence High School and Georgetown High School representatives competing against each other. There was a steer riding and a barrel racing category and the winner in each category was awarded $500 toward their school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.

Victoria Cloughly of Liberty Hill High School took the top spot in barrel racing.

“The steer rider was Justin Gilmore,” Clark said. “He didn’t win, but he represented us well.”

He said the organizers wanted to offer an educational experience to the older kids as well.

“We were trying to involve the high school kids to give them something more than just traditional sports,” he said. “To get them involved with things besides doing video games and such.”

Clark said his passion for education and supporting public schools stems from his parents, both of whom were educators.