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Bishop will see an influx of visitors this weekend as hundreds of California High School Rodeo Association finalists and their families take up residence for six days of exciting rodeo action.
Approximately 260 competitors, the best in the state from nine rodeo districts stretching from the Oregon to Mexico borders, will be putting their skill and talent to the test for the chance to advance to the National Finals in Iowa.
According to CHSRA officials, the 40th annual event is as much a treat for Bishop residents as it is for the competitors, who take advantage of Bishopâ€™s recreational offerings by fishing in local streams and lakes, attending a rifle shoot hosted by the Bishop Gun Club and, of course, shopping at unique local retailers.
Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Tawni Thomson said that, on average, each of the 250-plus contestants bring at least two family members with them, with some bringing upwards of seven spectators to town for the event.
In all, she said it wouldnâ€™t be too far-fetched to assume the visitors pour more than $1 million into the local economy, when lodging, food, fuel and other amenities are taken into account.
But the CHSRAâ€™s impact on the community doesnâ€™t stop there.
â€śThey give a lot back to the community,â€ť Thomson said, pointing out that Thursday is the rodeo associationâ€™s cancer awareness night where contestants and spectators are encouraged to wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness. During that evening, proceeds from ticket sales at the Mike Boothe Memorial Arena are donated to the Eastern Sierra Breast Cancer Alliance, which provides financial aid to residents who are suffering from all forms of cancer to help cover the cost of treatment, food and fuel to make it to and from doctors appointments.
The cowboys and cowgirls also take a little time out of their busy Finals schedule Wednesday afternoon to spend one-on-one time with special needs residents.
Thomson and CHSRA Third Vice President in charge of Publicity and Media Tracy Scott said they would encourage all special needs residents, from young adults to small children, to check out the annual event, which takes place in the Mike Boothe Memorial Arena.
During the special needs event, rodeo participants will be paired with a special needs partner for an evening of fun tutorials on some of the equipment the cowboys and cowgirls use to train.
Thomson said there are dummies set up to train participants in roping, and a unique contraption that gives special needs participants a chance to feel what it would be like to be on the back of a horse.
â€śThe special needs rodeo is so awesome,â€ť Thomson said. â€śThe (rodeo participants) bring special equipment, and the special needs kids look up to these high school rodeo cowboys and queens like theyâ€™re rock stars.â€ť
Both Thomson and Scott said the event has not been as well attended as organizers had hoped in past years, but are confident that as word spreads about the fun both the Final participants and special needs participants have, more residents will be interested and get involved.
â€śItâ€™s really, really hard to put into words,â€ť Thomson said. â€śItâ€™s a one-on-one meet-and-greet with these elite athletes.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s a really special event and we want to get the word out to everyone that this is open to anyone with special needs,â€ť Scott said.
In addition to their community activities, the cowboys and cowgirls compete in 13 different events, from barrel racing and pole bending to bronc busting and bull riding.
â€śWe have 45 available slots in each event, and some have less, but every kid feels just as passionately about all their events. If you asked them, I donâ€™t think theyâ€™d be able to tell you they have a favorite,â€ť Scott said.
In addition to the rodeo events, portions of Sunday and Mondayâ€™s events will be dedicated to crowning a new CHSRA rodeo queen and contestants have scheduled a golf tournament this weekend. Both are open to the public.
For a full list of CHSRA activities, times and dates, see the special CHSRA announcement on pg. A-9.