Whoopie-ti-yi-yo, let's rodeo

The sounds and smells of broncs 'n' barbecue will permeate the county airport this weekend.

Published October 13, 2006

The heart-pounding thrill of professional rodeo makes its return to Brooksville this weekend when ropers and riders from throughout the Southeast make their way to the Hernando Cattlemen's Association Rodeo and Barbecue Festival.

Association president Dana Hurst is expecting a great turnout for the 30th annual event.

"From what I'm hearing, the weather's supposed to be perfect for it," Hurst said earlier this week. "We hope people will come early and stay late."

The festival, which runs today through Sunday at the Hernando County Airport, brings together the kinds of things folks tend to naturally flock to: music, food, children's games, arts and crafts, and, of course, rodeo.

This year's event promises to bring some hard-fought action as riders and ropers from the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association's southeastern division vie for championship qualifying points. As has been the case the past several years, Dade City's Harold "Spunk" Sasser is among the favorites to the win the division's All-Around Cowboy honors.

"It's been a pretty good year," said Sasser, who earned the prestigious title four times between 1988 and 1993. "At this point, you just focus on doing what you do best and hope you get it right."

A rancher in San Antonio, Fla., Sasser, 40, divides his time between herding cattle for a living and roping them for fun. His rodeo specialty is as a "header" in the team roping division, where he has earned 15 PRCA division titles. He currently trails steer wrestler and fellow team roper Glynn Robinson of West Point, Miss., by 967 points.

The rodeo, which will get under way at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday, will offer competition in saddle and bareback bronc riding, team and tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bull riding and barrel racing. In addition, the Professional Team Bronc Riding Association will stage a "wild horse" race, an event that dates back to the dawn of Western rodeo.

Musical entertainment will be offered throughout the weekend event. Highlights include concerts from 6:30 to 9 tonight and Saturday by Hernando country singers Brian Chytka and Jenny Rimmer. There also will be country dances at 9 tonight and again on Saturday featuring Pasco band Wiley Fox. Saturday performers include Daniella, Matthew Romeo and Caitlin Nicole, all from 1 to 3 p.m.; Lynn Brainard and Jeff Miller from 3 to 4 p.m., and Lucy Werner and Victoria K. from 4 to 6 p.m.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Egypt Shrine Hospital transportation fund, the Hernando-Central and Brooksville Senior FFA chapters and the Hernando County 4-H, as well as scholarships for Hernando County's Youth in Agriculture program and other leadership programs.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 352 848-1435.