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June 18, 2014

Metro-east rodeo rides again -- in new location

Two new sponsors have taken the reigns of the Belleville Optimist Club Rodeo, which will become known as the Mascoutah Rodeo.

It's moving from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport to Scheve Park in Mascoutah.

"(The Optimist Club) did it for 21 years, and all of our members got 21 years older," said former organizer Corky Helms, 77, of rural Belleville. "We all got together and agreed that it had been a good ride, and that last year was going to be our last."

Western Junction western store in New Baden and Mascoutah Improvement Association will fill the void as sponsors.

The rodeo will continue to be sanctioned by the International Professional Rodeo Association.

"I don't want this good entertainment to leave the area," said co-organizer Tom Hull, 57, owner of Western Junction. "I want it to grow, and I want people to have a good time."

The rodeo will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

More than 100 cowboys and cowgirls from throughout the Midwest will compete in seven traditional events (bareback bronc, saddle bronc and bull riding, tie-down and team calf roping steer wrestling and girls' barrel racing) and two new ones (girls' break-away and 40-plus calf roping). The Future Farmers of America calf catch and calf scramble also will be back.

For the first time, vendors will sell beer, and crowds will hear live country music after the rodeo.

"We're not trying to change what (the Optimist Club has) done because they did a great job," Hull said. "All we're trying to do is tweak it a little and make it our own."

The other co-organizer is Harold Knoth Sr. He's longtime president of Mascoutah Improvement Association, which produces the Mascoutah Homecoming and maintains Scheve Park.

The rodeo will be held in the park's outdoor arena, where tractor and truck pulls normally take place.

"We bought all brand-new bleachers, not just for the rodeo but also for the homecoming," said Knoth, 76, of Mascoutah. "They cost us about $120,000. They're really nice, first class all the way."

The Optimist Club of Belleville held its first rodeo in 1993.

It became the club's biggest fundraiser, paying for everything from college scholarships to the Santa Claus Parade.

"We enjoyed doing it," said Helms, a retired science teacher and principal. "It was successful. We made money on it. Last year, we had over 1,500 people on one night, and that's a lot of people to come and watch a rodeo."

Hull also is a retired science teacher, as well as a farmer and auctioneer. He and his son, Eric, have been helping Helms with the rodeo in recent years.

Hull got to know Knoth as emcee of tractor and truck pulls at the Mascoutah Homecoming for 37 years.

After this year's rodeo, bands will play from about 9 to midnight. They include Tom and Kathy LaQuet on Friday and Turnpike Cruiser on Saturday.

"We'll have bleachers available (for watching the rodeo)," Hull said. "Or people can bring blankets or lawn chairs and sit on the hill and get a great view."

At a glance

What: Mascoutah Rodeo (formerly Belleville Optimist Club Rodeo)

Where: Scheve Park in Mascoutah

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; doors open at 5

Music: After the rodeo, about 9 p.m. to midnight

Admission: $8 in advance or $10 at the door for adults; $5 and $6 for children 5 to 12; free for 4 and under

Tickets: Local banks and Dauber Pharmacy in Mascoutah

Information: Tom Hull at 618-588-2668 or Harold Knoth Sr. at 618-566-2540

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