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Excitement builds for rodeo in Mint Hill

Rodeo in Mint Hill

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The Mint Hill Historical Society is hosting its first rodeo in the town, with high hopes for more to come.

The South Carolina High School Rodeo Association will hold a rodeo Friday and Saturday evenings, April 21 and 22, just off Exit 44 I-485 in Mint Hill. It will be one of the last competitions before the state finals at Clemson University next month.

Thirty acres of land off Bartlett Road, just down from Mint Hill Veteran’s Park on N.C. 218, will be turned into a western paradise with a competition size ring, horses, bulls, calves, clowns, cowboy boots and hats, music, and food and merchandise vendors.

The South Carolina High School Rodeo Association, a nonprofit organization, will retain the entry fees to provide scholarships for its members.

The Mint Hill Historical Society, also a nonprofit, will keep the gate fees as well as the sponsorships collected beforehand. They will use that money to help raise a large barn, a welcome addition to the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village.

Mint Hill Historical Society executive director Becky Griffin says the new structure will be used for larger tour groups as well as rented out for weddings and other events.

Just as with barn raisings of old, Griffin says the entire town is pitching in to make it happen.

“I would say 90 percent of the people that our board members approached about sponsorships responded positively. And when they sent in their ads we got pictures of bucking broncos, wanted signs, all sorts of fun things. They are just so supportive and so excited,” said Griffin.

Board member Judy McWhirter and her husband, James, stepped forward months ago, volunteering use of their land. Griffin said that was the first big hurdle to cross because they needed a large tract in order to hold the event.

The Town of Mint Hill installed a rolling gate at the property to enable cars to enter and exit more efficiently. Sunbelt Rental is providing the lighting free of charge. RCS is setting up portable toilets.

Griffin Masonry is hauling in potable water for the animals and has lent equipment and manpower to help prepare the site and set up the ring.

Elders and sisters from local congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also helped with site prep, marked off parking and eradicated fire ants.

During the two days of the event, members of Altrusa International will be present to do whatever is needed and the Future Farmers of America from Independence High School will help direct parking.

It’s a large undertaking for the Mint Hill Historical Society and has been more than a year in the making, but board member Bob Roland says the group is ready.

“It’s new to us but we’ve done our homework and it seems to be all coming together,” said Roland.

Lori Peyton, national director of the South Carolina High School Rodeo Association, grew up and still lives in Marshville, She competed in the South Carolina rodeos when she was younger and has served on its board for the last 21 years.

She now she leads the group and her son, Cooper, competes in the Youth division for grades K-5.

Peyton met Griffin at a Christmas party a few years ago and the idea of a rodeo fundraiser for the Mint Hill Historical Society was hatched. Now, she says, her group, which boasts almost 100 athletes from both Carolinas, is excited to compete in a more metropolitan area than they normally do.

She promises the “city” crowd that they will not be disappointed.

“I think spectators will be very surprised at the quality of the rodeo and shocked at the level of athleticism,” said Peyton.

As for Griffin, she can’t wait.

“We had some horse shows in Mint Hill back in the 1960s, but nothing like this,” said Griffin.

“I think this rodeo has generated more excitement in Mint Hill than anything I’ve ever seen. And I’ve lived here for 50 years.”

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: m.johnston@carolina.rr.com.

Want to go?

The rodeo happens this Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22, on Bartlett Road in Mint Hill. Gates open at 6 p.m., rodeo begins at 8 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults; $5 for ages 12 and under. Junior rodeo for contestants grades 6-8 is Saturday at 11 a.m. Tickets are $5 each. For information visit www.minthillhistory.com, call 704-573-0726, or email historical@bellsouth.

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