Thursday, June 25, 2009
Clydesdale draws big crowd
By SUE WATSON
The Clydesdale Christmas Store, Byhalia Lions Club, Watson and Byhalia fire departments, and the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce benefitted greatly from the success of the fourth annual Clydesdale/Lions Club Festival in Byhalia.
Ronnie Luther, organizer with the Clydesdale Store, said attendance this year on Saturday evening was close to 6,000, the largest crowd ever since the inception of the festival.
Jerry Bolden, owner of Deep South Rodeo Association, agreed that this year was one of the best in terms of turnout for competition in the rodeo events. The rodeo held in conjunction with the Clydesdale Festival has grown and has one of the best purses in the area, Bolden said. This year’s rodeo purse of $20,000 was divided between the top four winners out of six events, he said.
Luther said volunteers from the greater community in and around Byhalia and sponsorships by local banks and businesses are what make the festival a success each year.
It is the city of Byhalia, the fire departments, the sheriff’s department, the Lions Club, the Chamber all working together that makes the festival a success, he said. The Lions Club provides about 60 volunteers to staff the event, he said.
All profits from the festival are divided equally between the Christmas Store and the Lions Club, he said. Parking lot fees go to the Byhalia and Watson volunteer fire departments. The chamber of commerce benefits from the poker run.
“That’s what it takes, a whole community working together - the chamber, the city,” said Luther. “It says a lot for the community, not just Byhalia, but the whole area around it.”
The rodeo had twice as many contestants Saturday night as Friday night, Bolden said.
“It’s the most successful rodeo we’ve ever had at the Clydesdale,” he said. “The Byhalia rodeo is one of the top money rodeos in this area and compares with the Liberty Bowl Rodeo.”
The purse is determined by the number of cowboys who enter the competition and pay the $40 entry fee, Bolden said. The Clydesdale Festival put up half the purse this year.
Bolden said the association caters to the cowboys who have invested heavily in their rigs in order to travel to events. Safe parking and utilities help make them feel secure with their rigs, he said.
“They will go where it's convenient to them and where they are treated well,” he said.
The Clydesdale Festival is one of three main fund-raisers for the Christmas Store. A golf tournament in September and a Christmas party and auction are the other two sources of income for the store which provides clothes and toys for over 200 families at Christmas in the Marshall County area.
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