By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
Founded in Clovis in 1974, the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association still calls the city home.
During the HPJRA Finals this week, some 250 contestants will also call Clovis home — at least temporarily.
Participants younger than eight, and as old as 19, will culminate a circuit that started in April and went through 15 rodeos in eastern New Mexico and west Texas before ending with the finals.
Competition begins on Tuesday at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena and will last until the final awards ceremony Saturday night. What’s at stake for the contestants are bragging rights and, for the very best, prizes such as trophy saddles and belt buckles.
“All year, they are accumulating points. They have to be top of their class and then they come to the finals. The finals count as double points,” said Karen McDaniel, chairman of the HPJRA.
Although the contestants have been vying against each other, on the weekends, for the better part of three months, McDaniel says the cowboys and cowgirls aren’t tired of one another just yet.
“Are you kidding? No,” McDaniel said. “I know I have three kids in there and they look forward to seeing their friends. They’re with their school buddies all year and, now, they’re hanging with the rodeo kids.”
The junior rodeo events somewhat mirror the competitions in adult rodeos, with some exceptions.
Barrel racing, calf-roping, team-roping, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding are among the traditional grown-up activities also practiced by the HPJRA members, as is bullriding for the 16-19 age group.
But girls also compete in pole bending, where riders negotiate their horses around a line of poles for the best times. Younger contestants also participate in goat tying, breakaway roping and calf riding — the last for ages 8 and under.
HPJRA contests are broken into four age categories: 16-19, 13-15, 9-12 and 8-and-under.
“Let me tell you, the 8-and-under this year is pretty tough,” McDaniel said, noting that category has 10 girls and seven boys in the all-around competition.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, entrants will be involved in two competition sessions each day — one at 8 a.m. and the other at 6 p.m. On Friday, the Mounted Patrol Arena will see action at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., and the day will culminate with an auction and talent show at 6 p.m. at the Clovis Civic Center.
A short go-round performance will be staged on Saturday at 9 a.m. and the last day’s final performance begins at 7 p.m., followed by a dance. Admission is $5 per person, $2 for students and free for children six and under.
According to Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce marketing coordinator Liz Eisenbraun, the HPJRA’s local economic impact is quite noticeable every year.
“The impact to the community is significant because they spend five to six nights,” Eisenbraun said. “And it’s not just the parents, but it’s the grandparents and other relatives that come too.”