Over a three-day period – Jan. 6 (Fri) to Jan. 8 (Sun) – thousands of rodeo lovers from Virginia and beyond experienced bull riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing and additional fast paced rodeo activities inside the Salem Civic Center.
Sponsored by Kroger and presented by RAM Trucks, the 50th Stampede Championship Rodeo proved to be well worth the price of admission as contestants from all over the country competed in the sanctioned rodeo.
Bobby Rowe, a former world champion and current owner of Imperial Rodeo Productions, has been part of all 50 rodeos. “This, unlike a lot of other events, works for people whether they are ninety years old or a young toddler,” Rowe said. “Most of our crowds are family people. We really pride ourselves on being a family oriented show.” Due to the wet weather, workers brought in extra sand to help dry out the dirt for the championship. Despite being in his 80s, Rowe got on his knees and helped flatten the approximately 600 tons of dirt needed to get the job done. Randy Mitchell, 68, says he’s also been to every Rodeo Championship since its inception. “I have experienced memories here that I can cherish for a lifetime,” he said. “I look forward to be here again next year.”
When it came time for the bull riders to take center stage, they did not disappoint.
“When people purchase their ticket, I want them to hopefully walk away seeing something they’ve never experienced before,” rider Dusty McMullen said. “There are many hours of hard work that goes into what we do. Day in and day out we practice for several hours.”
During certain intermission breaks, children under the age of ten got a chance to come on the floor and enjoy a friendly racing competition. Patrick Coleman said his daughter’s face lit up when he allowed her to participate. As he watched her run around with other kids her age, he couldn’t help but smile. “I got a feeling that she will remember this for a long time,” Coleman said.
“Ram Rodeo has been part of this rodeo event since 1981, right here in Salem for our entire run. Of
course, Salem predates us with them celebrating fifty years,” Jacob Morhead said. “We go to about 500 rodeos each year and invest six million dollars into the sport of professional rodeo every calendar year. The International Professional Rodeo Association, their season culminates in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, next weekend.”
With a huge smile on his face, Bobby Rowe said, ”We are bloom happy with this year’s overall turnout but next year we will go back to our original dates and that will hopefully get us away from any bad weather.”