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Lone Star Rodeo, Feb. 4 and 5

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 1/29/22

When the Calsonic Arena was constructed over 30 years ago, one of the first performances shown was the Lone Star Rodeo.  They’ll be performing again in their 73rd year as a family owned and operated rodeo show on February 4 and 5.  

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Lone Star Rodeo, Feb. 4 and 5


When the Calsonic Arena was constructed over 30 years ago, one of the first performances shown was the Lone Star Rodeo.  

They’ll be performing again in their 73rd year as a family owned and operated rodeo show on February 4 and 5.  

The events will show off Lone Star’s “best of the best” as they host their top 10 national finals from 2021. Champions will be crowned in all eight events. 

“It truly is a family tradition. We provide family entertainment from a family,” said communications and promotions manager Rachel Boyd. 

From Texas to Tennessee 

Lone Star Rodeo began with Boyd’s grandfather Preston C. Fowlkes, Sr.  

He was born in the dusty, southwest Texas town of Marfa. His family raised sheep since the land was too dry for cattle. As a student at Sewanee University in Tennessee, young Fowlkes fell in love with the green-green land of Tennesse and decided to move to Frankin in the late 1940s. 

“He thought he could keep cattle over this way, and they actually brought it over by train...and that’s kind of how he got started,” Boyd said. 

In 1949, he was approached to do a rodeo by the Rotary Club in Franklin.  

Now and then 

Things were different back then. It was an outdoor event with only woven wire and wood post fences to separate spectators from the action.  

“Most events evolved from things that were used on the ranch,” Boyd said.  

The early, early days of the rodeo were practical as ranchers practiced roping calves so they could rope them for medical treatments on the ranch, while horse bucking was used to break a colt so ranchers could ride them, Boyd said. 

Bull riding, on the other hand, was all for “fun and games,” Boyd joked. 

As it grew into an entertainment sport, Boyd described the early rodeo days as “local cowboys” trying something fun on the weekend. Now, like any other sport, many of the contestants are professional athletes. Interestingly, they pay to compete. Only the top five win money back, Boyd said.  

“You don’t actually get rich on this. You do it because you love it,” she said.  

Still, the rodeo is a traditional event. “It still has that older style aspect in that it’s still an animal and a contestant—whether it's their horse or a bull. It’s kind of just between them two, competing against each other,” Boyd said. 

Boyd competes today in a relatively new event called “cowgirls break away roping.” The cowgirls rope as good as the cowboys, but they instead tie their rope onto the saddle. Once the calf is roped, the horse stops in a “break away.” It lasts anywhere between two and five seconds.  

That short time in the arena makes injuries not as common as sectators may think. The rodeo has had its share in injuries, but Boyd says more times than not they don’t have any—aside from minor scrapes and bruises. Between announcers and bull runners, they ensure safety measures are in place.  

It’s like with any sport; it requires practice, practice, practice to develop muscle memory.  

“You’re going all by muscle memory. If you’re trying to think at all about your reaction, it’s too late because it happens so fast,” Boyd said.  

In the bucking events, cowboys only have to stay on the bull for eight seconds or less—just enough time to blink your eyes a few times, Boyd said. “It’s got to be a reaction to the animal through muscle memory. That's what gives it its thrill,” she said.  

The fast pace, too, may please those with short attention spans as one event moves quickly to another. Clowns and comedy acts will also keep the crowd constantly entertained.  

There will be lots of kid events that will put a “little diret on their boots,” like the best dressed cowboy and cowgirl contest and a “Kids’ Gold Rush” (a western-style Easter egg hunt). Shopping and food vendors will be set up as well.  

All in the family

Boyd said she went to her first rodeo when she was two weeks old and “hasn’t quit yet.” She learned “the ropes” from her dad, Preston C Fowlkes, Jr, who took over the rodeo and managed it for about 40 years. He's the one that decided to take them onto the road.  

“He was kind of ahead of his time. He had a vision that it could be done and just hired the right people to make it all come together,” Boyd said. “And he just had a love and a passion for it.” 

The rodeo moved to Crofton, Kentucky in 2003 where they today have a 660-acre ranch with anywhere from 45 to 60 horses and 30 to 40 bucking bulls at a time.  

“We can’t make horses and bulls buck; they do it naturally, and they want to do it,” Boyd said. 

The rodeo company swaps out and takes a whole other set of livestock each weekend.  

“The animals won’t have to go back-to-back-to-back. They have they high life; they’re the superstars of the show, we say. So, we try to take of them as much as possible,” Boyd explained. The horses and bulls rest all week, then they show in the arena on the weekends—which is only about 16 seconds total of work for them. 

But transporting those animals across a dozen or so states is a logistics feat. 

Arena panels, bucking shoots, everything has to be loaded and unloaded at each event location. For the livestock and all the other odds-and-ends, it requires six or seven trucks and trailers to transport everything. 

“There’s not a lot of jobs you can do and take your whole family, so that’s kind of one of the added bonuses. We might be on the road a lot or really busy, but we are all together at least,” said Boyd. 

After Fowlkes, Jr. retired it was time for the next generation to take over—that is, the siblings and their kids.  

 Boyd uses her communications and marketing degree to help craft the family rodeo into a “modern look” while keeping as many traditions as she can, especially with the family. Her brother, Preston C. Fowlkes III and sister, Vanessa Madison, are the “heavy lifters” and “backbone” of the rodeo production.  

Today, Lone Star Rodeo does around 25 events a year and travels in a dozen states—from Limestone County Sheriff’s Arena in Athens, Alabama to Chesapeake Bay in Salisbury, Maryland to the Horse Center of Lexington, Virginia and, of course, the Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville.  

 Salisbury Maryland drew around 5500 rodeo fans. And their show in Alabama has been drawing a large summer crowd for 40 years. 

And COVID? Besides 2020 (which put a pause in their production), Boyd said they’ve seen a rise in spectators as more and more people want to get out and do activities with their family.  

“You must’ve had a quality show if they want to continue to come back each year. And we try our best to make changes with different acts year-to-year so it’s a good show every time,” she said. 

Tickets each night are $17 for adults and $10 for children 4 to 12 years old. They may be purchased at the gate or online at http://www.lonestarrodeocompany.com/shelbyville.html 

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Performances start at 7:30. The Calsonic Arena is a beautiful venue with lots of seating, Boyd said, but they still encourage everyone to get there early. 

“When you’re actually at the event and you see that many people—thousands of people come together—and they’re enjoying themselves, having a great time, laughing and spending time with their own families, it’s just a feeling like no other,” she said.


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