‘All hands on deck’: St. George Lions member, state senator chosen as grand marshal of Dixie Roundup Rodeo

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — As the 86th annual Dixie Roundup Rodeo prepares to get underway at the historic Dixie Sunbowl this weekend, organizers anticipate three action-packed nights featuring some of the best cowboys the West has to offer.  

Utah state Sen. Don Ipson, District 29, date and location not specified | Profile photo, Utah State Senate, St. George News

Longtime St. George resident, businessman and politician Don Ipson will make an honorary lap around the arena as grand marshal. Ipson joined the St. George Lions Club, which has hosted the rodeo since its inception in 1934, 31 years ago. 

As CEO of DATS Trucking, he has been a major sponsor of the event for decades, and his fleet helps transport equipment to and from the venue. Beyond his work with the rodeo, Ipson has also served Washington County in an official capacity. He was first elected to public office in 2008 and currently represents Southern Utah as the state senator for District 29. 

“I’m incredibly honored,” he said. “Past people that have been picked are incredible stalwarts in our community. I’m humbled to be included in that group.”

Each year, the St. George Lions select an upstanding local citizen to be honored as grand marshal. Longtime radio host and president of the annual KONY Coins for Kids fundraising event Carl Lamar served as grand marshal in 2019, succeeding retired Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputy and restaurant owner Conrad Dominguez, who served in 2018

Dixie Roundup Rodeo committee chairman Jeff Twitchell told St. George News that there’s no single criterion for being chosen.

“You just look for somebody that has made a difference in the community,” he said. “We just felt that with everything Don has done, the time he’s spent making our community what it is and taking our voice up the ladder in government, he would be a very good representative for us.” 

85th annual St. George Lions Club Dixie Roundup Rodeo, Sept. 19, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

This is Twitchell’s second year serving as head of the rodeo committee. He has been a member of the St. George Lions for more than a decade and brings rodeo experience to the position, having worked for a livestock contractor. 

Twitchell said all Lions join the club with the expectation that they will be volunteering their time to help prepare, run and then disassemble the Dixie Roundup Rodeo each year. 

“If you’re a member, you’re part of the rodeo,” he said. “You’re cooking hamburgers or working the concession stand; you’re just doing anything and everything to help get the rodeo put on.” 

Their efforts are bolstered by the St. George Lady Lions, who assist with ticket sales and planning the pre-rodeo parties and dinner, among other duties. Organizing a successful event each year takes about 80 or 90 people in total, Twitchell said.

Ipson said he recalls handing out programs at the gate and working various jobs around the arena through the years. 

“It’s all hands on deck when it comes to the rodeo,” he said. “For me, it’s been a fun deal.” 

The Dixie Roundup Rodeo is a premier event on the rodeo circuit, where cowboys can earn points to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo held every December in Las Vegas. With rodeos across the country being canceled since the start of the pandemic, Twitchell said more riders than ever before have come to St. George to get their season back on track. Competitors have traveled from across the West and beyond to ride in this year’s Dixie Roundup Rodeo.  

“If this was a regular year, we would have cowboys rodeoing in Washington state, some would be down in New Mexico, and there would be rodeos going on in Texas,” he said.

85th annual St. George Lions Club Dixie Roundup Rodeo, Sept. 19, 2019, St. George, Utah | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

The tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling events have received more entries than the Dixie Sunbowl can accommodate in a single night, Twitchell said. This overflow of cowboys, called a “slack,” will run on Saturday morning in hopes of advancing to the finals that night. 

The rodeo is the main fundraising drive for the St. George Lions and serves to support scholarship funds, programs for the visually impaired and other community initiatives. On Friday during “Pink Night,” $1 from every ticket sold will be donated to benefit breast cancer patients at Dixie Regional Medical Center. 

Ipson said the Dixie Roundup Rodeo is a time-honored tradition for the St. George Lions as well as local families. Generations of Southern Utahns look forward to seeing recognizable faces working the arena, entertainment from veteran rodeo clown Randee Munns and top-quality livestock from the same contractor going back decades. Offering a sense of familiarity amidst uncertain times, the rodeo is needed by the community perhaps now more than ever before. 

“What we’re really looking forward to is getting together and being sociable,” he said. “We’ve missed that.” 

Tickets are available for purchase between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. directly from the St. George Lions, located at 301 E. 100 South, or by calling the rodeo hotline at 435-673-3301. Admission costs $17 per person for reserved seating, $12 for general admission adults and $5 for kids ages 11 and under; ages 2 and younger are free. 

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.

•  S P O N S O R E D   C O N T E N T  •

Event details

  • What: St. George Lions Dixie Roundup Rodeo.
  • When: September 17-19, 6-11 p.m.
  • Where: Dixie Sunbowl, 150 S. 400 East, St. George.
  • Tickets: Reserved seating $17; general admission adults $12, children age 11 and under $5.
  • Information: Telephone: 435-673-3301 | Email: rodeo@stgeorgelions.comWebsite.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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