By Michael Davis
Two years ago, David Sharp of Stockbridge and Bill Jones of Covington saw their dream of a starting a rodeo become a reality.
"There used to be a Henry County rodeo here and we're just trying to bring it back," Jones said.
"We just kind of talked about it for a while and finally got tired of talking about it," Sharp added.
After securing the support of the United States Cowboy Tour in 2001 and finding event space in McDonough, the pair produced their first rodeo.
"We were both in rodeo for many years and just felt like it was something we needed to do," Sharp said.
Because of the event's size, operations were taken over in 2002 by the United States Cowboy Tour, which has "turned into a big group of people," according to Sharp.
Since its first year, the rodeo has performed to crowds of 3,000 to 4,000 people throughout the weekend, Jones said.
But rodeo hasn't always been a part of the pair's lives.
"I grew up doing the typical baseball and football but I had a friend of mine involved in the Georgia High School Rodeo Association and I got involved through that," Sharp said.
He later went to college at Murray State University in Kentucky on a rodeo scholarship.
"I was a bull rider but not anymore. Longevity in that sport isn't very long," he said.
Jones, who grew up in Henry County but only recently moved to Covington, took up rodeo as a part-time hobby.
"I just got involved in it in my late 20s," he said. "I was looking for something to do so I started riding bareback horses but I wasn't very good at it. I've been involved in rodeo for about 10 years now, but I only rode for two."
Thanks to the support of the Cowboy Tour, the rodeo is a stop for professional and part-time cowboys from across the country on their way to the rodeo finals at the Gwinnett Center.
"We're expecting a huge contestant field from all over the
Southeast and Midwest," Jones said.
Contestants, amateur and professional, will compete in events like calf roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling, bareback riding and bronco riding.
But only members of the United States Cowboy Tour will be eligible to go on to the finals.
With 201 contestants, there is a possibility for a first-time tour participant to go on to the finals from McDonough, said Krece Harris, Director of operations for the United States Cowboy Tour. "Whenever you enter an event you accumulate points, and we take the top 12 winners (from throughout the tour) from each event."
Sharp and Jones will be looking for another place to hold the rodeo next year. Jones said the land where the rodeo has been since 2001 has been sold to a developer.
"Hopefully next year, we will have community support and build something permanent," he said.