OKEECHOBEE — Whether you prefer the excitement of rodeo bull riding, enjoy the chaos of the kids calf scramble or appreciate the cattle handling skills of a working cowboy, the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Arena is the place to be on Labor Day weekend.
The Okeechobee County Cattlemen’s Association will host the Pete Clemons Memorial Ranch Rodeo, combined with a bull riding event at the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Arena, 1885 U.S. 441 N., on Sunday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 7, at 2 p.m. The rodeo will also include the popular Kids Calf Scramble, in which children from the audience are invited into the arena to try to grab the ribbon from a calf’s tail.
Gate admission will be $10. Children 10 or younger will be admitted free of charge.
The cattlemen had planned the ranch rodeo for the Day of the Cowboy in July, but had to postpone the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ranch rodeos differ from professional rodeos, explained Fritz Brewer of the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Association. Ranch rodeo events focus on the skills a working cowboy uses in everyday ranch work.
The contestants are entered as teams with at least one woman on each team. The teams are sponsored by a ranch and every team must compete in every event.
Brewer said the rodeo will include five events:
• Ranch bronc riding: In a ranch rodeo, regular ranch saddles are used in the bronc riding event. The horse also wears a halter with one rein or rope. To qualify for points, the rider must stay on the horse for eight seconds.
• Buddy pickup: In this timed event, one member of the team stands on top of a barrel in the arena. Another team member rides a horse to the barrel and the person on the barrel jumps on back of the horse. The pair then rides back out of the arena.
• Calf branding: In a ranch rodeo, calves are “branded” with paint. Each team has one roper, two muggers and one brander (the female member of the team is the brander). Calves are in one end of the arena. Only the roper, who is on horseback, is allowed to cross the center arena line. After the calf is roped, the “muggers” tie the calf and place it on its side. The brander is ready at the bucket of paint where the brands are kept. When the calf is ready to be branded, she runs with the branding iron across the arena, marks the calf with the “brand” and then runs back to the bucket. The timer stops when the branding iron is back in the bucket.
• Team tying (also called double mugging): A steer is released into the arena. One team member, on horseback, ropes the steer. Two other team members “mug” the steer, placing the animal on its side and tying three of the steer’s feet together.
• Team sorting: A line is painted across the center of the arena. Ten calves are released into one end of the arena. Each calf is numbered. The judge draws a number for the team and calls out that number. The team must sort that calf, plus the two following numbered calves from the herd in order. For example, if the judge draws the number 3, they must sort calves number 3, 4 and 5, in that order, from the herd. The clock starts when that first team member crosses the center line. One team member rides across the center line to cut the desired calf from the group and herd it across the center line. The other team members must keep that calf on that side of the line and also prevent other unwanted calves from crossing the line. If a calf that has been sorted rejoins the herd, the team is disqualified. If an undesired calf (in this example, a calf other than numbers 3, 4 or 5) cross the line, the team is disqualified. If they don’t complete the task of sorting the three desired calves — and only those three calves — in three minutes, the team is disqualified.
Ranch rodeos encourage audience members to pick a team to cheer for throughout the rodeo.
The winning team receives “bragging rights” as the top ranch in the county. This ranch rodeo will be a qualifying event for the 2021 Florida Ranch Rodeo Finals & Cowboy Heritage Festival.
Rodeo fans are encouraged to practice appropriate distancing and safety measures while enjoying the rodeo.
Teams and bull riders who wish to compete in the rodeo may call Fritz Brewer at 863-634-0825. The ranch rodeo is limited to 20 teams (10 per day).
About Pete Clemons
Pete Clemons, who died in 2018 at the age of 91, was a famed former rodeo star, a successful citrus grower and rancher and the owner/operator of the Okeechobee Livestock Market. In 2008 he was inducted into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame. He traveled twice to South America to serve as an ambassador of U.S. rodeo. The high regard by his peers was reflected by his selection as “Big Boss” of the National Day of the American Cowboy celebration in Okeechobee in 2007. In 2009, he was the recipient of the Florida Folk Heritage Award. In 2013, he was named to the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. In 2011, the National Day of the Cowboy honored him with the Cowboy Keeper Award. In 2016, the Florida House on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., added Clemons to its list of Extraordinary Floridians “as one of the best known and beloved cowboys in our state.”