For months before the third week in July rolls around a dedicated group of horse riding Orange County citizens are working hard to keep an important tradition alive; the Orange County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo.

The Sheriff’s Posse, one of the longest continually active volunteer organizations in Orange County has been in existence for over 60 years. Having hosted the rodeo for over 50 years, posse members spend countless hours each year preparing their arena for the rodeo. This year the arena is sporting a bright coat of orange paint and a new central alleyway. The rodeo grounds on Farm Road 105 have been the site of a rodeo since the early 1950s.

Rodeos were first sponsored by the Jaycees. When that organization was no longer able to host and promote the rodeo, the arena and grounds were purchased by the posse.

Annual attendance at the rodeo has averaged over 2,000 for many years, in spite of heavy rain causing postponements several times.

“This year rain should be no problem. It would probably take a rain of over 10 inches to cause any problems as dry as our parking area is,” said rodeo chairperson Becky Rhodden.

Rhodden is also the captain for the drill team; the showpiece of the posse. The drill team is a tradition in itself; having been in existence nearly the entire time the posse has been organized. Over the years, the drill team has been featured in many rodeos in and out of the Orange area.

The drill team has performed in rodeos at Houston, San Antonio, the Texas Longhorn in Vinton, La. and the YMBL rodeo in Beaumont. They perform at any venue that invites them.

Locally the drill team and posse have given time to provide man and horse power at the North Orange Early Learning Center and Library Day at Bridge City. They have given horse rides at the First Baptist Church Bridge City Preschool, and assistance to search and rescue for the Citizen’s Academy of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

“We keep western tradition alive in a family oriented friendly organization. We are always looking for new members. You do not have to live in Orange County or even own a horse, even though we do welcome riding members that would like to join our drill team,” said Rhodden.
The money raised from the rodeo goes back to the community in the form of scholarships.

“This year we gave Gus Harris Scholarships to three students. They were Dusti Lummus of Orangefield, Luke Domas of West Orange, and Lindsey Bonin or Orange. The bigger the attendance at the rodeo, the more scholarship money we can give out. We are also able to have funds for the upkeep of the arena and grounds,” said Rhodden. “This year we were able to paint the arena and add the central alleyway. We also had the generous donation of a concrete walkway from the concession stand to our handicap seating area.”

The rodeo is a full event rodeo ranging from a lamb scramble for the younger children to the bull riding for the more experienced riders. There will be a free stick horse barrel race for riders 0-5 years of age.

There is breakaway and tie down roping and three divisions of barrel racing. Steer wrestling rounds out the timed event portion. The fun event of the rodeo is the calf dressing. In this event four hardy cowboys try to dress an unresponsive calf in lingerie. Taking into account the effort required to ride a bull, calf dressing is possibly the toughest event at the rodeo.

Anyone is subject to be seen at the rodeo at any time. One of the more colorful characters to show is the popular Tobby the Clown. Tobby shares his balloon creations with the younger children and puts a smile on the face of any one that ventures close to him.

In addition to the physical work that goes into the operation of the rodeo it also takes money. The Posse has always had generous sponsors, but is always in need of more. If you would be interested in giving the rodeo a sponsorship in either a business or personal manner, please contact any member of the posse. They will point you in the right direction to put your money to good use in the community.

The current slate of officers for the posse is: Darren Tant, president; Gus Harris, vice president; Lee Harris, treasurer; Martha Havens, secretary. Rhodden is the drill team captain and rodeo chairperson.

This year’s rodeo is scheduled at 8 p.m., July 15-16. To participate in events call 409-745-1471. The number for general information is: 409-886-2638.