Fundraising, wild-west style
Saturday night at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Posse Arena, the Sharyland FFA Booster Club held a fundraiser that featured cowboys and cowgirls, horses, calves and bulls. It was their Inaugural Rattler Rodeo and it was an evening filled with fun and excitement as barrel racers, calf ropers and bull riders competed for buckles, tumblers, cutting boards and cash in front of hundreds of cheering spectators.
But the action in the arena was not the only attraction of the night. There was plenty of food to choose from, music to listen to, vendors to buy from and raffle prizes to win. All in all it was a fun event with an extremely worthy cause; to raise scholarship money for graduating Sharyland High School FFA members.
Shortly before the rodeo kicked off, Sharyland FFA Booster Club president, Jose M. Hinojosa, Jr. shared details about the rodeo and its purpose when he said, “Today we’re doing a fundraiser for the kids for scholarships. We’re trying to get some money together so that we can give them a good scholarship at the end of the year. Every potential recipient has criteria that have to be met (to qualify). They have to be a (Sharyland High FFA) member for at least three or four years, they have to show animals, which could be steers, swine, goats, rabbits or chickens, and they have to be a graduating senior in order to qualify.”
This year there are 11 seniors that have met, or will be meeting, those criteria and will be eligible to receive one of the scholarships. How much each student will receive depends on how much the club raises through fundraisers this year. The more they raise, the more they’ll give out.
Holding a fundraiser as ambitious as a rodeo is an idea that was actually two years in the making.
“It started about two years ago,” Hinojosa said. “Last year we didn’t have the number of parents we have today. So we decided to wait a year to see if we could get more parents involved. And luckily this year we tripled the number of parents in the club. So we started planning and organizing everything since the summer. And here we are five months later with this big event.”
Hinojosa went on to explain that the events would be barrel racing, team roping and bull riding. The barrel racing participants could be male or female and they competed in three different age groups; 13 and under, 14-18 year-olds and adult. In the team roping event, horseback riders competed in pairs to rope the horns and legs of a steer in the fastest possible time. As for the bull riding event, a crowd favorite, riders got on a bucking bull and attempted to stay mounted for at least eight seconds while the animal attempted to buck and/or spin the rider off.
Bull riding, which has been called the most dangerous eight seconds in sports, is not for the faint of heart. Each and every ride has the potential of resulting in serious injury to the rider as a 1,500 lb. or heavier bull can throw, trample or gore the rider if it all goes bad.
While most of the bull riders at the Rattler Rodeo were in their 20’s or 30’s, there was one rider who has yet to graduate from high school. His name is Jorge Ramirez, Jr. and not only is he a senior at Sharyland High School, but he’s also a member of the Sharyland High School FFA.
Ramirez was greeted with cheers and applause Saturday night and while neither of his two rides qualified for a score, which requires the rider to remain mounted at least eight seconds, he represented the Sharyland High FFA extremely well simply by having the courage to mount the bulls and hang on for dear life.
Ramirez’s second ride did not end well as he was thrown and stepped on by the bull before he could be pulled to safety. Fortunately the scary scene was short-lived and he did not sustain any serious injuries. He was however moaning and groaning in pain as I found him shortly afterwards and I waited to ask him a few questions. Once he was feeling up to it, and with his parents’ consent, I asked him how long he had been riding bulls. To which he replied, “Two years.” I then asked him what attracted him to such a dangerous sport to begin with, and he said, “The adrenaline.”
As I continued, I could tell he was feeling better because he began responding in complete sentences. That’s when I asked Ramirez to describe his two rides.
“I remember my first ride,” Ramirez said. “I just remember falling down in the chute and blacking out. Just waking up after and I was already on the ground. It happened so fast that I didn’t even remember what happened. Over time I just started getting into it and being more awake.”
“I guess I fell in front of him (the bull),” Ramirez said about his second ride. “My hand got stuck in the bull rope and he (the bull) stepped on my foot and my right knee.”
Another reason Ramirez loves the sport of bull riding is the comradery that exists between the riders. “We all know each other here,” Ramirez said. “We’re like a family, you know. We all practice together and travel together sometimes. We’re all like brothers.”
Finishing up the interview, I asked him if he was ok, to which he replied, “Yes sir, I’m ok.”
While Ramirez had a close call Saturday evening, he accepts the risks he has to take in order to compete in the sport he loves. And with the inaugural Rattler Rodeo being such a success, he could very well serve as an inspiration and a role model for other aspiring bull riders who we may soon be seeing bucking their way to first place finishes at Rattler Rodeos yet to come.