The city of Hattiesburg welcomed the Southern Miss Coca-Cola Classic Rodeo on Feb. 19 and 20. This year marked the 31st year the USM Department of Recreational Sports hosted the event.
April Jordan, marketing and public relations coordinator for the department said the the Southern Miss Coca-Cola Classic rodeo is fun targeted at people of all ages.
“The Southern Miss Coca-Cola Classic rodeo is a longstanding tradition in the Pine Belt,” Jordan said.
The event began as a fundraiser to support former equestrian center at Southern Miss. However, for the last 20 years, the rodeo has funded student development and scholarships.
Junior nursing major Mary Blair Ward received the Coca-Cola scholarship.
Because of her employment with recreational sports as the program assistant for facilities, she was able to apply for the scholarship.
Ward said the rodeo is a great community opportunity and has worked as a volunteer for two years.
“I think it’s an opportunity for family fun, because it’s very family-oriented and great for kids,” Ward said. “I think it’s great it can bring to have people of all ages to come out and also partner with the university and give students the opportunity to volunteer and to get scholarships.”
For senior child and family studies major Michaela Harper’s family, the rodeo is a tradition.
“I grew up going to the rodeo at least every other year,” Harper said, “My family usually made it an event for everyone to get together and bond.”
The rodeo featured several competitions, including bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, clown acts, steer wrestling, team roping, calf roping, girls’ barrel racing and bull riding.
This year, local rising country star Travis Clark and pro rodeo clown Lecile Harris entertained for the event.
Tracie Fowler, president and CEO of United Way of Southeast Mississippi, served as this year’s grand marshall.
She appeared in the parade during the rodeo’s intermission, throwing beads and T-shirts for the spectators to enjoy.
These things are Harper’s favorite reasons to go to rodeos.
“I love the overall atmosphere of the rodeo, [including] the animals, the entertainment, the food — and every year they have horse sales and competitions, which I love,” Harper said.
Jordan said she expects the rodeo’s success to continue for many years to come.
“Throughout the years, the community has really turned out for this event, and this year is no change,” Jordan said.