As the spring flowers fade giving way to early summer blooms and the days become longer, members of the Franklin Noon Rotary are polishing their cowboy boots, dusting off their hats and adding a crisp crease to their jeans in preparation for the 72nd Franklin Rodeo on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 18, 19, 20. After last year’s three sellout nights, the Rodeo Committee is ready for another three nights of exciting, fun entertainment.
Rodeo fans, “can expect a real exciting show,” said Armando Estrada, Rotary president. “We’re going out of our way [to make this event] even more exciting.”
The Rodeo Committee tried several new additions last year such as live music during intermission and more services for rodeo partners, added Devin Gilliam, Rodeo Committee chairman.
“The Fan Zone was a big success,” he said. “We’re expanding on the successes with more fun and activities for kids and families.”
This year fans will see additions to the Grand Opening, however even as the rodeo evolves, there are three basics that will never change.
“The Franklin Rodeo has always been about God, family and country; it’s at the forefront of what we do,” said Gilliam . “We always want to evolve and add new things, but those things never change. You can bring the family to the Franklin Rodeo and not worry about what the kids will see.”
The rodeo countdown begins with the annual Rodeo Parade through Downtown Franklin on the Saturday prior to Rodeo Week. This year the parade will begin at High Noon on Saturday May 13.
Wednesday May 17 of Rodeo Week is the annual just for kids, free Down in the Dirt party from 6:30-8 p.m. in the arena where Thursday night cowboys and cowgirls will be rolling in the dirt. Besides a lot of fun, kids can get “Behind the Chute” tours, a few cowboy autographs and learn some roping tricks.
The evening, “will be bigger and better with all things rodeo,” Gilliam said. “It’s a chance for kids to dress up like a cowboy and do what cowboys do. They can run wild, meet cowboys, and play games.”
Food trucks will also be on site for those who need extra fuel.
One of the draws for most cowboys and cowgirls on the rodeo circuit is quality stock. For the past 10 years Sparky Dreeson, owner of J Bar J Ranch in Montana, has provided high quality bucking horses, bulls and calves for the Franklin Rodeo. Dreeson is a three time PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) Ramuda Award winner. As one of the country’s best rodeo stock contractors, his animals will challenge the skills and tenacity of every cowpoke while providing an exciting show for the audience.
“There’s a lot more to the rodeo than good [stock],” said Dreeson. “All the Rotary does, what it stands for, how they help people makes me proud to be a part of it. The people on the rodeo committee always want to do a better job with everything they do and I’m always excited to come back. This is one of our favorite rodeos.”
Roger Mooney, is “one of the best announcers on the circuit” and has the accolades to prove it. He returns for his 10th year as the rodeo announcer. His job is to keep rodeo events moving along, announce the contenders and keep the rodeo clown in check, often his biggest challenge.
This year’s rodeo clown, bullfighter and specialty act is John Harrison, the 2022 PRCA Clown/Barrelman of the Year. Harrison will “clown around” between the action and sometimes during the action.
On the upper section of the arena rodeo fans will find a variety of vendors selling western ware, food and Franklin Rodeo merchandise. The Cantina, for adults over 21, will be open with a pre-purchased ticket.
“Come early and come hungry,” Gilliam said. “We have several high-quality food vendors. Come shop, eat and have a good time.”
Folks with sensory issues will find some relief at the Williamson Health booth where sensory packs for adults and children are available.
The Franklin Rodeo is more than an event; it’s a community fundraiser with 99% of the funds raised donated to local organizations through the Rotary Foundation.
“The growth of the rodeo allows [Franklin Noon Rotary] to put more money back into organizations that reinvest in the community and support more organizations,” said Estrada.
The Rotary Foundation supports 56 non-profit organizations in Williamson County. One of those organizations is High Hopes Development Center, which equips children, youth and their families with special skills to achieve success. Not only does the Rotary provide funds, such as $25,000 for a treatment room in the new facility, members volunteer their time.
“Franklin Noon Rotary is a wonderful partner,” said Brandy Blanton, High Hopes director of development. “Not only do they help us financially, but they’re also there when we need volunteers at the spur of the moment. They hand out candy to the kids at Halloween and they help with promotions; they’re there for the kids.”
Oak Cottage for women provides a safe, Christ centered, residential home to prepare formerly incarcerated women with skills to re-enter society as productive citizens. Currently Oak Cottage houses 16 women in two houses in Williamson County.
“The Rotary helped us with a grant to provide transportation for our women,” said Judy Felts, founder of Oak Cottage. “They give us $1,600 a month for trolley tickets to transport them to and from their jobs.”
In return women at Oak Cottage help Rotarians distribute pork butts, “Anytime they need help.”
Chris Barnhill, founder of Franktown Open Hearts, is committed to providing under-served youth in Franklin with weekly vocational education and exposure to jobs and experiences to prepare them for the future.
The Foundation provides funding for a number of programs Franktown uses to reward achievement, said Barnhill.
It’s like a bribe, but Barnhill calls it a carrot to motivate Franktown members to do well in school and give back to the community. Franktown provides after school activities, tutoring and skills to help members succeed. It also provides food to fuel success.
Rewards such as big trips, camps, trips to TPAC and Titans tickets are motivation to attend school - truancy is a problem - and good conduct by controlling how they behave, said Barnhill.
“We believe we should give back and require it for the big trip,” he added.
The Rotary Foundation helps fund the annual week-long ‘big trip’ to places like Chicago, Washington D.C., Tampa and this year, New York City.
“The kids get to see landmarks and museums they learn about or see on TV,” Barnhill said. “In the last few years 25 to 30 kids have gone on a trip. It’s something younger kids aspire to once they see photos and hear stories.”
One Generation Away provides high-quality food to those in need. The partnership with the Franklin Noon Rotary “is tremendous,” said One Gen founder, Chris Whitney.
“Last year they helped us provide 100,000 pounds of food that provided 90,000 meals,” he added. “They are so great to work with and so much fun. We are extremely grateful and honored to be chosen.”
The Franklin Noon Rotary has been a partner with the Boys & Girls Club in Franklin and Fairview for decades and recently the Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee. It’s committed to the Club mission of enabling all young people reach their full potential. To fulfill that commitment the Noon Rotary provides the Club with funding, volunteers, and meals for events.
“We’re grateful that the Franklin Noon Rotary Club is a part this unwavering commitment to quality, innovative and life-saving programs and outreach,” said Denise Carothers, director of resource development Williamson County.
According to Rotary Foundation Board president David Ott, the best part of his job is presenting organizations with their check.
”Every encounter fills my heart with pride and joy,” he wrote in an email. “The Franklin Rotary at Noon provides many community services throughout the year, but distributing funds raised through the Franklin Rodeo is our core, our DNA. It’s an incredible multiplier effect. The community supports the Franklin Rodeo and the proceeds then ripple back through the community. It’s a beautiful thing.”
General admission tickets for the Franklin Rodeo are $12 for children and $25 for adults and may be purchased online at franklinrodeo.com. Lap children are free with a paid adult.
VIP Corral seating is $150 and includes exclusive catered dining, entertainment, VIP parking, Jack Daniels spirits, wine from Harvest Beverage Company and beer.
For more information about the Franklin Rodeo or to order tickets, go to franklinrodeo.com.
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