High Plains, high returns

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks
Owner Ron Waters, front, and employee Adrian Largo of ShyAnna Leather of Gallup get ready Monday for this week’s High Plains Junior Finals Rodeo in Clovis. ShyAnna Leather makes custom leather items.

By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent

If ever there was such a thing as a traveling, summer rodeo camp for kids, the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association just might be it.

Final stop: This week in Clovis.

The HPJRA’s finals begin today at the Mounted Patrol Arena, at the Curry County Fairgrounds, and continue all week long.

“The kids are here all week,” said HPJRA chairwoman Karen McDaniel. “This is when they get their awards. It’s just like any year-end (event).”

Around 120 contestants, ranging in age from as young as 6 to as old as 19, will be participating. The event puts a wrap on a series of HPJRA summer rodeos — in locales such as Tucumcari, and Lovington, Canyon, Plains and Monahans, Texas.

“They’re excited because they’re here for a week, they spend time together and it’s an exciting time for them,” McDaniel said.

Two major developments will accompany the camaraderie of the last week: an actual competition and a financial boon to the city of Clovis.

Competitors have earned points via their performances in the rodeos leading up to the finals. Although it’s conceivable that some could have such a large lead that a poor finals showing wouldn’t jeopardize their standing, most will have to perform well this week to win the big prizes — e.g., a saddle for the first-place finishers.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, competitions begin at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. On Friday, two sessions also will be held — at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Saturday finals begin at 9 a.m. and will feature a first for the event: coverage from the RFD cable television network.

“We just heard they wanted to do it because it’s a big kids event,” said McDaniel, who was unsure whether the television coverage on the channel would be live or delayed.

Admission is $5 per person and $3 for students; a week-long event wrist band can be purchased for $15.

All of the regular rodeo events will be staged during the HPJRA finals and a few more added. Goat tying, chute doggin’, pole bending and ribbon running are competitions that are unique to junior rodeos and will be featured here as well.

As far as the financial benefits the city of Clovis stands to gain during the finals, HPJRA registration chair Wilma Fulgham said they are significant.

“The (Clovis/Curry County) Chamber (of Commerce) estimates that, with the gross receipts tax and everything, (the economic impact will be) close to a half-million dollars,” Fulgham said. “The families start checking in on Monday and some of them won’t leave until Saturday morning. Quite a few of them stay at motels, the women shop, they eat at the restaurants. It’s a big impact.”

Still, the amount of competitors overall is slightly down from a year ago.

Both McDaniel and Fulgham point to the same culprit. With contestants driving from all parts of southeastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle, the families have to deal with one common denominator.

“I really think it all has to do with gas prices, that’s the reason we’re down,” McDaniel said.