Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:00 PM on Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rodeo just gets better

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Cowboy Warren Simpson hangs on during bronc riding at the Ninilchik Rodeo on Saturday.

See more rodeo photos on Spotted®

With more than 52 years of history, the Ninilchik Rodeo took a giant step forward over the weekend. "I was really excited about the crowd, the weather was cooperative and we had more contestants — 105 this year as opposed to 90 some last year," said Shirley Cox, who, along with husband, Barry, coordinated the annual event.

This year's fair was attended by more than 750 people. At the microphone for the first time was James Hastings of Anchorage, with the Wounded Warrior Project and Alaska's Healing Hearts, organizations providing recreational outdoor rehabilitation for battle-wounded and battle-weary service men and women. With Hastings representing those groups were rodeo contestants Zack Easterwood Danielle Warbington.

"I went to a rodeo in Anchorage and he got out and gave his talk and I thought what a speaker's voice he had," said Cox, who invited Hastings to use his voice as the emcee in Ninilchik.

Hastings' almost nonstop commentary during the rodeo kept the crowd's attention.

"I've been an arena director, worked all ends of the chute, rarely as a competitor, but I love to talk so Shirley put me to work," said Hastings, who had high praise for peninsula cowboys and cowgirls. "The sportsmanship and competition were phenomenal. These were top of the line competitors, true champions."

Setting the mood on both Saturday and Sunday was a grand entry of flags from every branch of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. At the entrance of the U.S. flag, carried by Rodeo Queen Melanie Mastolier of Homer, followed by Alaska's flag carried by Little Miss Rodeo Andrea Ardenia, also of Homer, the hushed crowd rose to its feet.

"That flag was carried by Josh Leeson, a combat veteran, in three separate tours in Afghanistan," Hastings, a 22 year U.S. Army veteran, told the bleacher-filled audience. "It survived 27 air assault missions, numerous IED (improvised explosive device) attacks and was buried along with Josh in the rubble of a building."

After returning to Alaska from his latest deployment, Leeson asked that the flag be flown at rodeos throughout the state. It has been in Anchorage and will now continue to Soldotna and Kodiak before being returned to Leeson in his home state of West Virginia.

Bull riding got the action started each day of the rodeo as competitors fought to maintain their balance in spite of the bulls' violent twists, turns and jumps. Adding to the excitement were two new and very feisty bulls, recently brought to the peninsula from Canada by Shirley Cox.

Team and breakaway roping, barrel racing, pole bending and double mugging gave plenty of opportunities for seasoned contestants to show off their skill. The younger set, like 3-year-old cowboy Ryder Hackett of the central peninsula. also got in on the action with calf and junior bull riding.

"When he sets that hat on the ground, he can hide behind it," Hastings said of Ryder. "That's how young that rascal is."

Even youngsters in the audience got a taste of rodeo dust with calf scramble competition for 0- to 6-year-olds and 7– to 10-year-olds. Donations from the crowd offered prizes topping $100 as entrants raced around the arena in an effort to remove a ribbon from a calf's tail.

Adding excitement to the rodeo was trick roper Garrett Underwood. He drew gasps and applause from the crowd as his air-cracking bullwhip cut pieces from a straw held in the mouth of his trusting assistant.

Putting in their first appearance at the Ninilchik Rodeo were the Rebel Riders of Anchorage. They performed as a drill team and four of them, with dazzling smiles and ages ranging from 11-14, performed tricks on horseback.

"Shirley and Barry Cox were outstanding and the young cowboys and cowgirls here on the peninsula were pretty inspirational," said Hastings, who will emcee at the rodeo that takes place during the Kenai Peninsula State Fair in Ninilchik Aug. 17-19. "I look forward to coming back."

This year's rodeo was a chance for the public to see new improvements to the fairgrounds.

"I really have to say thank-you to Sen. Tom Wagoner (R-Kenai) and Rep. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) because they have worked so hard for our district to make sure we've had the funds to work with to make these improvements," said Lara McGinnis, Kenai Peninsula State Fair manager.

The recently made and some soon-to-be-completed improvements include new carpeting and dance floor in the Carol Bock Hall, a remodeled kitchen, improved drinking water system, ADA-accessible pathways, expanded gardens, renovated mini-golf course, bleachers for the 4H show arena, additional fencing and the removal of several dead trees. Installation of new rodeo seating for 750 with ADA ramps and wheelchair-designated areas begins this week.

Beautification of the fairgrounds has been provided by Lashela "Lala" Powell, an employee of Anchor Point Greenhouse, working with American Legion Post 18 in Ninilchik and the fair.

Needed are sponsors for construction of a new announcing stand in the rodeo arena and for buckles to be given as prizes to rodeo contestants.

"And we are hoping to have enough funding to cover the bleachers for the 4H shows and the rodeo arena," said McGinnis.

See more rodeo photos on Spotted®

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

Results of the Ninilchik Rodeo are combined with other peninsula rodeo results to get overall scores for the season. Following are results available for the Ninilchik Rodeo only, provided by rodeo organizer Shirley Cox:

0-10 age group

• Barrels: Andrea Ardenia, first place; Brock Sarks, second place;

• Poles: Brock Sarks, first place; Andrea Ardenia, second place;

• Keyhole: Brock Sarks, first place; Andrea Adrenia, second place;

• Calf riding: Lane Nicholson, first place; J.D. Primera, second place.

11-16 age group:

• Barrels: Teresa Bitterich, first place; Johnna Drew, second place; Hannah Kelson, third place;

• Poles: Melanie Mastolier, first place; Hannah Kelson, second place; Kylee Iveson, third place;

• Keyhole: Johnna Drew, first place; Teresa Bitterich, second place;

• Steer daubing: Teresa Bitterich, first place; Johnna Drew, second place; Hannah Kelson, third place;

• Junior bullriding: Brock Sarks, first place; Luke Sarks, second place.

Senior events (17 and older age group)

• Barrels: Corey Wilkinson, first place; Jacob Fowler, second place; Shelly Bindon, third place; Mellissa Fowler, fourth place;

• Poles: Chelsey Hackett, first place; Bridgett Gibson, second place; Shelby Rodge, third place;

• Bullriding: Bill Ashwell, first place; William Frye, second place;

• Team roping: Steve Cook and Stephen Primera, first place; Scooter Hackett and Garrett Willis, second place; Billy Rutherford and Danielle Warbington, third place;

• Breakaway roping: Danielle Warbington, first place; Chelsey Hackett, second place; Teresa Bitterich, third place;

• Ribbon roping: Tanya Brewer and Stephen Primer, first place; Danielle Warbington and Brett O'Conner, second place; Jenna Mahoney and Charlie Willis, third place;

• Double mugging: Stephen Primera and Frank Kosloski, first place; Danielle Warbington and Zack Easterwood, second place; Garrett Willis and Kenny Hackett, third place;

• Bronc riding: Jessie Kitson, first place; Warren Simpson, second place.

Senior All Around Cowgirl: Danielle Warbington

Senior All Around Cowboy: Garrett Willis

11-16 All-Around Cowgirl: Teresa Bitterich

11-16 All-Around Cowboy: No contestants in that age group

0-10 All-Around Cowgirl: Andrea Ardenia (fourth year in a row)

0-10 All-Around Cowboy: Brock Sarks