by Victor Lopez
ECTOR COUNTY--For the next few days, Roughneck and Jackalopes fans will see something different inside those walls. Artificial turf and ice, replaced by 18 inches of dirt as the Ector County Coliseum plays host to some of the top rodeo stars in the country.
According to Rodeo Vice President, Roger Turner, what once started out as friendly competition between neighboring ranch hands to see who's the best, has turned into a worldwide fascination, "There's a romance of being a cowboy and people like to come see and get a little bit of a taste of that. That's what rodeos are about."
The best of the professional rodeo circuit will be in Odessa, hoping to eventually stake their claim on a very coveted title. Sandhills Media Coordinator Jim McLain explains, "This is the first rodeo of the year and the PRCA is starting to countdown to the 2009 championships and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas."
But, as Roger Turner tells it, converting what most people recognize as the "Jack Shack" or the "Rough House" is not as easy as it might seem, "We have been putting in anywhere from 10-12 hours a day, since Sunday. There's a lot of man hours, a lot of volunteer man hours and we're real blessed with the volunteerism that we have."
For 2009, the Sandhills Rodeo will have a record number of constestants. According to those who know, the venue has a lot to do with it.
"It's great stock and great a atmosphere. The fans are the best. The facility is unbelievable for them," McLain said.
Being number 76, event coordinators want to make this year, the best ever.
"We thought 75 was going to be pretty hard to beat and it will be. We've got big shoes to fill. But 76 is going to be absolutely phenominal."