ST. GEORGE – On a clear Friday evening in the historic Dixie Sunbowl a storied St. George tradition provided moments both solemn and celebratory as a crowd of thousands, clad mostly in pink, cheered on the cowboys, cowgirls, clowns and daredevils of the 80th annual Dixie Roundup Rodeo.
It was a night dedicated to raising awareness and funds for breast cancer – the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign – and men, women and children were invited to wear pink in support. The normally Lion’s Club purple rail around the wall of the Sunbowl was painted pink in honor of the occasion and a releasing of pink balloons paid tribute to the brave survivors and fighters of the deadly disease.
It is a tradition the St. George Lions Club got involved in five years ago and to this day they have averaged a donation of $10,000 per year – money that goes directly into the community hospital.
Read more: St. George Lions: Living legacies of service
Traditions abounded at the Dixie Roundup Rodeo, traditions that have left an 80-year legacy on the city of St. George as profits from the event are used to fund various charitable donations throughout the community.
Radio announcer Carl LaMar has been involved with the rodeo through the radio station KONY Country’s sponsorship and support for 28 years. Throughout that time he has interviewed bullfighters, rodeo announcers, rodeo clowns and queens, he said, and he hopes to be able to continue his relationship with the rodeo for years to come.
“We’ve got a queen this year who, her mother was a queen, and I interviewed her,” Lamar said, “I hope I am around to interview her (the current queen’s) daughter.”
Another proud tradition of the historic rodeo is the stirring love of country and patriotic pride on display throughout the Sunbowl and during the opening ceremony as giant American flags graced both the bowl grounds and hung from the sky; local first responders and the Utah National Guard’s 222nd field artillery – complete with howitzer tank – entered the arena; and the crowd joined in a chorus of our nation’s anthem.
After all the pomp and circumstance, the cowboys and cowgirls took center stage thrilling the crowd with their athletic prowess as they bucked, roped and raced their way to either dust or glory.
One of the highlights was the pint-sized Adilynn Coughlin who held her own in the barrel racing competition against competitors much older than her.
In between competitions attendees were entertained by rodeo clown and barrelman, Randee Munns, who has been a staple at the Dixie Roundup for over thirty years, Lamar said.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the Dixie Roundup are the grounds themselves. The Dixie Sunbowl was built 67 years ago and sits in the middle of St. George, a rare thing for rodeo grounds.
“This rodeo is right in the middle of town at the historic Sunbowl,” rodeo announcer Reed Flake said, “you don’t go places where they have a facility like this and this is awesome.”
Flake has been announcing rodeos since 1992 and travels all over the west with his family. This is his fifth year in St. George.
“St. George is a great community,” Flake said, “and this is a great Roundup.”
The St. George Lions Club hopes to make some renovations to the locally famous arena to make it more of a multi-use facility that can be better utilized by the city, Lions Club member Wayne Hoppal said.
The night wasn’t only about traditions though as more modern, extreme sports bookended the event with a skydiver parachuting into the arena and a heart pounding display of motocross action including tail whips, supermans and backflips awed the audience.
The Roundup action continues Saturday with the annual parade beginning at 5 p.m. on Tabernacle Street and the final night of competition in the Sunbowl; gates open at 6 p.m. and opening action including the famous horse serpentine begins at 7:30 p.m.
“What a great rodeo, what a great tradition,” Lamar said, “80 years and going strong.”
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