Olivia McClure | 11/18/2015 3:32:09 AM
News Release Distributed 11/17/15
BATON ROUGE, La. – As the 78th annual Block and Bridle Rodeo at LSU approaches, some student cowboys and cowgirls are spending this week practicing their roping skills. Others are working up the courage to ride a bull.
But the real stars of this student-run rodeo have not yet decided if they’ll even ride in it. Instead, they’re busy working behind the scenes, making sure every detail is right.
Ross Brennan, Tyler Canal and Peyton Beattie are members of the rodeo committee of the LSU College of Agriculture Block and Bridle club, which organizes the annual event. The rodeo is held on two nights — Friday, Nov. 20, and Saturday, Nov. 21 — and offers the usual calf roping and bull riding alongside fun nontraditional events, such as dressing up goats.
The planning process starts every April, when Block and Bridle members elect officers for the following next school year. It takes the next few months for the rodeo committee to plan the event and line up workers, animals, concessions, security, prize money and myriad other specifics.
In addition to the seven rodeo committee members, it takes a “small army” of about 30 people to put on the rodeo, said Brennan, who is the rodeo manager. Some are volunteers from the club, but many others, including the rodeo clown and announcer, are hired from the outside.
The club also does not provide the animals used in the rodeo. Participants who require a horse, such as for calf roping or barrel racing, have to provide their own. Bulls and other animals are brought in by stock contractors.
Club members meet periodically during the summer and early in fall semester, but the time they spend getting ready for the rodeo ramps up significantly as the date draws closer. Committee members estimate they’ve spent 10 or more hours every week of the past month making final preparations.
“It’s five months of work for two nights,” Brennan said.
Planning a rodeo may be hard work, but at the same time, it’s a great learning opportunity.
“I’ve always experienced the work of other people,” said Brennan, who grew up rodeoing in Thibodaux. “Never was I involved in the actual forming of a committee and putting on the rodeo, so this is an eye-opening experience. There’s definitely a lot of planning. Everything from ‘thank you’ notecards to who’s bringing the cattle, you have to plan.”
With so many small details to take care of, teamwork is critical, he said. Brennan is in charge of delegating tasks to others on the committee, which has taught him about sharing responsibilities in a way that allows people to use their talents.
The financial element of the rodeo, for example, is not one of Brennan’s strengths — so Beattie keeps track of the spreadsheets the club uses to pay for prizes and bills. And Canal, a general business major from Baton Rouge, enjoyed going to local businesses to ask for advertising sponsorships.
“It really helps to get the club name out there and our cause,” Canal said. “It helps students build relationships with businesses and teaches them how to talk to business people. It’s hard to go into a business and ask for money, but the worst they can tell you is no.”
The event is a fundraiser for Block and Bridle activities throughout the year, including scholarships and trips to conventions. How much money they make at the rodeo depends on how many people sign up and what events they participate in, Beattie said.
The students’ motivation stems from something much larger than just paying for club expenses.
“This is our 78th year of the Block and Bridle Rodeo at LSU,” said Beattie, an agricultural education student from Houma. “That tradition in itself is enough to keep it going.”
It is also a way to educate people and dispel rumors about agriculture and animals.
“Having it on campus gives the students that don’t have ag backgrounds a chance to experience agriculture and a rodeo right here in the heart of LSU,” Canal said.
The student rodeo is Friday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. Students enrolled at any college in Louisiana can enter to ride in the rodeo. Anyone can participate in the open night on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m.
General admission is $8 and $5 for LSU students. Both rodeos will be at the Parker Coliseum.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Cancer Services of Baton Rouge. The club will host an event with pony rides and a petting zoo for local cancer patients and families the morning of the open rodeo.