AUSTIN, Texas — For the second year in a row, Rodeo Austin ProRodeo was canceled, but this year, the nonprofit wanted to stay true to its mission and allowed youth to compete to win scholarships.
Screaming on carnival rides, petting goats, going to concerts and watching the rodeo show is what Texans look forward to every March. But that was brought to an abrupt stop once COVID-19 hit our area in 2020.
"It was probably one of the most disappointing moments of my life," said Rodeo Austin Chief Executive Officer Rob Golding. "Frankly, it's not just because of the hard work and the effort and the disappointment."
Golding said it's because it hurt Rodeo Austin's mission to grow the next generation through scholarship opportunities and showing participants like 15-year-old Trey Harbor that hard work pays off.
"I put in an hour, 30 minutes for each sheep or goat a day," said participant Trey Harbor. "That's just like working them. That's not feeding them and cleaning their pens and all that."
Harbor works year-round to get his sheep and goats ready to win competitions like the ones at Rodeo Austin.
Golding said after refunding money and paying bills, there was nothing left for the nonprofit to give for scholarships.
"We didn't grant any scholarship dollars last year after the cancellation," said Golding. "We had no events which generated money for youth."
The 2020 event was the first time Rodeo Austin was canceled since starting in 1938.
In 2021, the nonprofit made the tough choice of cancelling everything again except their private youth competitions, including the Junior Livestock Show, Ag Mechanics Competition, Ultimate Scramble Championship and the Youth Auction.
"I am calf scrambling today," said Harbor.
Harbor didn't just participate, either. He won the Ultimate Scramble Championship and $6,000.
"I'm very blessed to do it because there's so many people that put so much work in to get this together and they did it for us as kids," said Harbor. "It means they really care about us."
Rodeo Austin is a private event in 2021. Only participants and their visitors are allowed, but you can watch online.
Golding said, typically, they raise about $3 million in scholarship money. With events running to nearly the end of the month, they hope to hit that mark again.
Come this time in 2022, Golden said Rodeo Austin will be back on the saddle 100%.
"Every single bit of a full pedal to the metal, hit the gas, we're going to be ready to go, said Golding.
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