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Rodeo committee members reminisce about past rodeos

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In celebration of the Franklin Rodeo’s 70th anniversary, members of the Franklin Noon Rotary Club Rodeo Committee gathered April 30 for a potluck dinner and to reminisce about past rodeos.

Jill Fitzgerald provided a big-screen slideshow of old photos that jogged memories and got the stories rolling.

Several stories were of rodeos that took place at the outdoor arena that used to be in Jim Warren Park, before the rodeo moved to the Williamson County Ag Expo Park. 

The old arena was in a bowl, causing it to flood when it rained. And every year it rained at least once during rodeo weekend. When the pump that was used to drain water from the arena failed, the arena would go from a mud hole to a swimming pool.

One female contestant recently told rodeo committee chairman Bill Fitzgerald that she lost several boots in the mud of that arena. It’s likely they’re still there, under what is now part of the parking lot.

Up until the late 1980s, as many as 1,000 horses were included in the annual parade. For many years, the parade was on rodeo weekend and, thus, it would end at the arena just in time for Saturday afternoon rodeo action to begin.

When Ed Woodard was chairman of the rodeo, he would announce the opening of the rodeo in an attention-getting manner, according to former WAKM news anchor and rodeo committee member Charles Dibrel. 

Woodard wore a watch from Sparkman Jewelers, Dibrel began.

“He’d hold up the watch and holler, ‘What time is it?’ Then he answered, 

‘It’s rodeo time!’ And then he’d throw the watch against the wall and it would fall apart,” Dibrel said.

Until about 15 years ago, the rodeo had a rodeo queen each year. One of the photos Jill pulled up on the big screen was of a very young Suzette Lane as rodeo queen. Lane is now owner of Catering by Suzette.

Memories flowed about the antics of Dr. Harry Guffee, Bob Corlee, Ed Moody, Eddie Woodard, Preston Fowlkes and other founders of the rodeo. 

It seems that Guffee had a penchant for the dramatic and others for the comedic.

When the Ag Expo Center opened at the turn of the century, the rodeo moved indoors and rodeo committee members thought they would never have water woes again. 

“Rain was the bane of our existence in the outdoor arena,” said Pat Dunn, longtime rodeo committee member. “The first year in the new indoor arena, we thought we were rid of the rain. Well (a day or so before the rodeo), the staff turned on the water system and went to lunch. It flooded the arena.”

Proceeds from the rodeo fund various local and international charities the Franklin Noon Rotary Club supports. Proceeds from the rodeo’s first year bought new band uniforms for Franklin High School’s marching band.

Tickets are still available for the 2019 Franklin Rodeo, which will run May 16-18. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. and rodeo events will begin at 7. Tickets may be purchased online at www.franklinrodeo.com. They are $20 or $10 for ages 12 and younger. Box office tickets are $22 or $12 for ages 12 and younger.

Join the Franklin Rodeo Fan Club for a $25 membership fee and receive premium seating for each night tickets are purchased, access to a special fan club entrance so there’s no waiting in line, and on the first visit, Fan Club members will receive a gift bag with goodies, vouchers for merchandise discounts and free popcorn for up to four people and other treats. In addition, arrive before 6 p.m. and enjoy an exclusive behind-the-scenes chute tour. Fan Club members and their families are also invited to ride on the rodeo float in the May 11 parade through downtown Franklin.

Members will also be entered into a drawing for a Yeti cooler, will receive entry to a special Facebook group, where they can share photos and experiences, will get an exclusive Franklin Rodeo playlist via Spotify and will continue to receive other perks throughout the year. 

To join the Franklin Rodeo Fan Club, go to franklinrodeo.com, click on the Fan Club icon and follow the directions.

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