Thousands attend rodeo at Posse Arena
Over the past eight years, the PRCA Fort Myers Rodeo has grown every year, drawing a packed-house for many.
This year, for the first time, after several years of standing-room-only crowds at the Lee County Posse Arena, organizers slated the rodeo over three days in hope of meeting the demand.
Frigid temperatures on Friday held attendance down a bit but those who came sipped hot chocolate and enjoyed the experience of watching bucking broncs, ropers, rasslers and barrel racers compete for nearly $25,000 in prize money.
Margo Crowther, rodeo promoter and organizer, said after crushing it the last few years, they decided to try the matinee again.
“We were excited to sell out last year, so we thought it would be beneficial to have a Sunday matinee,” Crowther said Friday. “We were worried it would be hot, but it’s going to be beautiful Sunday.
The rodeo brought in some of the best riders in the country. Jacob Raine, a bareback rider, came from Tennessee to compete. He has competed in the rugged event since age 15, winning the Little Britches championship a couple years ago.
“It’s physically demanding, but it’s like a boxing match. It’s the adrenaline, the fight. I’ve been lucky. I haven’t been hurt yet or broken any bones. So far, so good,” Raine said.
Count Crowther in that group. She is also a barrel racer, and a very good one. She was in Georgia on Thursday, drove to Kissimmee to run slack there before coming back to North Fort Myers to run (and winning it).
On Saturday, she flew out to Fort Worth for the American semi-finals, leaving her husband and parents in charge.
Crowther believes the reason the rodeo has been so popular is that the spectators are so up close, as opposed to holding one at the Hertz Arena (which was considered at one time) or the new Mosaic Arena in Arcadia.
“There’s the feel it’s not a commercialized rodeo, but the western heritage type, old-time rodeo where the bulls are within reaching distance,” Crowther said. “It’s great for people who have never been to a rodeo. You’re not paying $10 for a beer. You have food trucks and vendors. It’s not a commercial arena.”
Heidi Main, who lives in upstate New York, has been to a rodeo before and said that her husband and kids were intrigued by it.
“They’re getting food and cocktails and hot chocolate. We’ve been to the PBR in Albany, so I guess I like the bull riding the most,” Main said.
Her friend, Sheila Eustace, was at her first rodeo.
“She dragged me along for the ride, freezing and screaming. I did not expect it to be this cold,” Eustace said. “We’ll look forward to the week, when it’s a little warmer.”