BRISTOL, Va. — For the first time in more than a decade, hundreds gathered at the Anderson Farm in Washington County for an action-packed rodeo.
Owner Mike Anderson said a rodeo was last held at his farm off Reedy Creek Road back in 2007. Rodeos had been held often, gathering spectators and competitors from around the region.
After the COVID-19 pandemic left area residents indoors in 2020 and early 2021, rodeo organizer Brad Nelms said it was time to return to the farm.
On Friday, about 2,000 people visited the farm to watch a wild night of rodeo fun. Another couple thousand people returned Saturday. Gates opened at 5:30 p.m. and a patriotic opening ceremony began at 7:30.
Cowboys and cowgirls rallied around the arena carrying the red, white and blue American flag. The announcer, contrasting the event from other sports events, said rodeo competitors and participants stand for the flag. He asked veterans in attendance to stand, as well as nurses, doctors and emergency personnel who have worked hard during the pandemic.
The opening ceremony concluded with a flyover by a helicopter carrying a large American flag.
Anderson said he was told by many spectators who had never been to a rodeo that they would return. He said they were particularly pleased with the patriotic opening ceremony.
Anderson and Nelms said they had no issues with the event, which had been postponed due to a controversy surrounding its permit. Washington County leaders previously kept the event from taking place at the Reedy Creek farm.
Nelms, 42, a rodeo producer known around the country, had been turned down for the permit at two meetings prior to his first scheduled weekend events in May. Subsequently, Nelms made a last-minute change and decided to hold the first rodeo in the series at the Russell County Fairgrounds — instead of the proposed site in Washington County.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow the rodeo to take place during an early June meeting.
On Saturday night, competitors participated in calf roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling and bull riding, which Anderson said was the most popular event. Top performing participants may go on to perform in Oklahoma.
About 100 people from around the country participated in the event, Nelms said. He expects many to return for future events this summer.
A ranch rodeo, different from this weekend’s event, is scheduled on July 10 at the farm. Another rodeo is planned the weekend of July 23-24.