The weekend event at Tennessee Technological University's Hyder-Burks Agricultural Pavilion is an opportunity for area residents to watch 170 or more of Tennessee's top high school rodeo athletes compete for important championship points. The athletes will show off their roping and riding skills in 11 events, ranging from calf roping, saddle broncs and bull riding to steer wrestling and bareback riding. Team roping, goat tying, breakaway roping, pole bending, cutting and barrel racing are also on the program.
"The students will be coming off rodeos at Paris, Tenn., and Tifton, Ga., so they're keyed up coming into this," says organizer Randy Adams. "It's the final rodeo of the season -- the equivalent of the all-star break in baseball. And students know their performance at the stampede is very important if they want to get off to a good start in the spring. We're expecting quite a show."
But the action won't just be on the arena floor. Adams promises a party in the stands. "We're going to have a dance contest with prizes from sponsors we'll give throughout the weekend. It's an action-packed, lively and dynamic event, complete with a rodeo clown and giveaways of caps, T-shirts and other prizes."
For Tennessee Tech's School of Agriculture, co-sponsor of the event with the Upper Cumberland High School Rodeo Association, the stampede is an opportunity for a special recruitment program targeting 4-H Club members, agricultural education students and other high school students from across the region who are interested in studying agriculture. Before the rodeo, faculty and current university students will meet with the prospective students one-on-one to answer questions and discuss the university's varied programs of study in agriculture. Students interested in taking part should check with their area extension agent, ag education teacher or guidance counselor for details.
Stampede events get underway with a cutting competition at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 26. The rodeo performance starts at 7 that night and resumes at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults and free for children six and under.
Elements spectators should watch for, Adams says, include the hair-trigger reactions of bull riders, the strength and agility of bareback and bronc riders, and the calculated nerve of goat tiers as they lunge off horses galloping in excess of 30 miles an hour.
Like any varsity athlete, the riders are very serious about their performance. Just ask Sparta's Misty Stone. The daughter of Bob and Babs Stone claimed the title of state champion barrel racer for 1996. While her win was factored on performances during the 1995-96 season, the accomplishment reflected years of hard work, training and attention to detail.
At the stampede, faculty in Tennessee Tech's School of Agriculture will be equally focused as they gauge area residents' interest in rodeo. "We're considering the idea of establishing a varsity rodeo team at Tennessee Tech," said Ben Byler, director of the school. "With the excellent facilities of the Hyder-Burks Agricultural Pavilion, we have the space and setup necessary, so it's an idea we are actively pursuing with our students."
Major sponsors of the Golden Eagle Stampede include Bilbrey Brothers Livestock of Cookeville, Boruff Trailer World of Sparta, French's Boots of Cookeville, Johnston Coca-Cola of Cookeville, WGSQ "The Country Giant" and White County Hospital in Sparta.
For more information on the event, call the School of Agriculture at 615/372-3019. For directions to the Hyder-Burks Pavilion, call 615/372-6967.