It’ll soon be time to round ‘em up and rope ‘em in the Verde Valley.
The Arizona High School Rodeo Association and the Arizona Junior High School Rodeo Association are coming to the Cottonwood Equestrian Center the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, for a rodeo open to teenagers in the middle school and high school divisions.
While the competition is expected to bring in competitors from across the state and even New Mexico, organizer Daria Weir said just three girls are entered into the contest representing the Verde Valley, and they’re all from Camp Verde.
Last week, the trio was busy on the Weir property practicing their barrel racing, cattle roping and goat tying techniques.
The three girls, freshmen Danya Weir and Sharli MacDonald, and senior Michelle Moscardini, have been sticking to a fairly rigorous schedule in preparation for the rodeo, the first one of this type in the Verde Vally in recent memory.
Four to five times a week, the girls practice, keeping both their skills and their horses in shape.
After school, and sometime straight from softball uniforms and into cowboy boots, the practice keeps them busy not just in preparation for the upcoming Cottonwood rodeo, but for anywhere from one to two rodeos a month throughout the competition season, Weir said.
Even though the Cottonwood rodeo means the girls won’t have to travel far, they’re still going to spend the night.
“It doesn’t count if you don’t spend the night,” MacDonald said.
The girls have all been involved in riding and rodeo practically since they were old enough to get on a horse, Weir said, and they’ve got their specialties.
“I’m newer to the breakaway,” Moscardini said. “I’ve been running the barrels for five or six years.”
It’s a much different form of horsemanship required than that which helped crown Moscardini as this year’s Colonel’s Daughter, the annual competition organized by the Camp Verde Cavalry.
“I’m very excited,” Moscardini said. “We’ve put a lot of work into this.”
While these three will be representing the home front, Daria Weir said she expects as many as 250 contestants to participate in the Cottonwood rodeo.
Just getting the go ahead for a local rodeo was not an easy task. Weir said the equestrian center wasn’t big enough to host such an event, but thanks to the Friends of Cottonwood, the city of Cottonwood, students, truck drivers and some volunteers, 800 tons of adjacent dirt were moved to level the field for an additional arena.
Weir said the organizers have been committed to planning the Cottonwood event since October.
In addition to the rodeo, a special dinner and dance is planned for Saturday, March 24, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $8 for ages 12 and older, $6 for the younger kids.
The proceeds will go to benefit the Camp Verde High School National FFA Organization and the Camp Verde PALS program.
In the meantime, the girls have work to do. That goat isn’t going to tie itself, after all.
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