story by Michele Toberer Nineteen-year-old BJ Billingsley has been a member of the Arkansas Cowboys Association for four years, competing as a tie-down roper. BJ […]
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Meet the Member D&S Rodeo
story by Lindsay King
Always a family event, rodeo for Cave City, Arkansas, natives Dale and Suzi McCracken was taken to the next level when they created D & S Family Rodeo. Dale rode bulls when he was younger and Suzi always loved horses, getting into rodeo as an adult. As their five kids–Jamie, Whitney, Kelsey, Kiley and Jimmy–were headed in different directions outside of rodeo, Dale and Suzi were trying to decide how their next rodeo season would go. “We were used to having a local rodeo on Saturday nights. That one closed so if we were going to rodeo we had to drive one or two hours. It kind of left our community without an event, there was just something missing.” This led them to start their own local rodeo circuit in 2014.
The 2017 season will consist of 28 rodeos, starting in April and ending with the finals in September. D&S Family Rodeo is different from most, it has three divisions: buckaroos, junior, and open. “Our goal is to provide a place for the family to go rodeo. The tiniest cowboy or cowgirl can get started in rodeo and their parents can compete there as well.” Buckaroos can mutton bust, ride miniature bulls, run barrels and poles as well as untie goats. The juniors and open do all the regular events but add chute dogging, goat tying, breakaway and ranch bronc. “There really are not many rodeo companies that have 24 events much less that many divisions.” To keep it in the family, one of the mutton busters is their 2-year-old grandson, Corbin. “Ella-Rae was born just this April and she had a pair of boots before she was even born.” Dale decided to start D & S Divas, a drill team made up of ten D & S members. “We started that just this March. We do a different routine every single weekend at our rodeos. We also ride in parades to promote D & S and rodeo in general.” A lot of the crew is made up of family members. Suzi and Kelsey co-direct the drill team and their son-in-law Bobby judges.
Outside of their own rodeo circuit, Dale and Suzi produce rodeos for ACA. Dale started on the ACA board as the bull riding director in 2013, Suzi started on the board the same year as the junior barrel racing director. The upcoming ACA-sanctioned rodeo held in conjunction with the Annual Cave City Watermelon Festival will be their longest event yet. “We are just trying to help the Watermelon Festival grow and bring more people to Cave City. We want to make people aware of the festival, see the other businesses and watch the three-day rodeo.” Thanks to Batesville Poultry/Cumberland $10,000 will be added to the overall payout, it will be evenly spread between three performances and all 12 events. The watermelon festival and rodeo draw so many people that the local Sonic has to hire an extra crew to help with all the added business. The biggest rodeo of the year title was shared by this rodeo last year.
This weekend will be filled with catfish fries, parades, calf scrambles, music and free watermelon from local growers at the park. Starting in 1980, the Watermelon Festival has been an annual event ever since and the rodeo has grown to a three-day event. Contestants competing in all three performances over the weekend will be eligible for the all-around buckles at the end of the weekend. Contestants can call or text their entries, with draws posting at noon for Friday and Saturday performances and 11 a.m. for Sunday. “This weekend is more than just the ACA rodeo, there will be entertainment at the park for the festival all weekend and a parade on Saturday.”
For more information, please visit www.dsfamilyrodeo.com, www.cavecitywatermelonfestival.com or DS Rodeo on Facebook.