Rodeo draws big business

Published 12:02 am Friday, June 15, 2012


T he big belt buckles and big horse trailers associated with the Alabama High School Rodeo Association’s finals bring big bucks to area merchants.

From Thursday until Saturday, 63 high school athletes – including seven local students – are gathering at the Covington Center Arena to earn bragging rights among the state’s best and a trip to the National High School Finals in Rock Springs, Wyo., next month.

Each one of those participants, including at least one family, are doing their part to stimulate the local economy – from filling up hotel rooms and eating at local restaurants to shopping in the county’s retail stores.

Debbie James, owner of Touch of Country, supports the rodeo – providing contestants a 20 percent discount on store purchases and door prizes – as well as sponsoring local participants. She said it’s not only her business that profits when the rodeo comes to town.

“It brings a large amount of business because these people need food, gas, a place to stay and supplies – that’s why we push so hard to keep the arena as part of our community,” James said. “People don’t realize how vital that facility is to our economy.”

James said comparatively, foot traffic in the store has increased 70 percent over this time last month – and all because of the rodeo.

“May is always a slow month for us,” James said. “There’s graduation and vacations. Local people see ‘western wear’ and think we only carry things for cowboys. That’s simply not true. We have fashion items like flip flops, belts and jeans – things that are in style now. But June – June is a great month.

“And because of the rodeo, I would venture to say it’s a great month for David’s Catfish House and Hilltop, which is where rodeo people say they love to eat, and hotels, too. The No. 1 hotels are Days Inn and the Best Western. Then, there’s the gas station, Gitty Up-N-Go right down the road from the arena, plus we can’t forget Walmart. Everybody has to hit Walmart.”

Sherry Moseley, the desk clerk at the Day’s Inn, confirmed James’ opinion.

“We are practically booked up through the weekend,” Moseley said. “We have some here for other reasons – a few for Bama Jam – but the majority has to do with the rodeo.”

Moseley said all of the hotel’s 43 rooms are booked for the weekend.

And the rodeo association does its best to give back to the community, giving out scholarships each night of the rodeo, totaling between $6,000-7,000.

Competition begins at 9 a.m. with performances tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Admission for adults is $8 each, and kids 12 and under get in free.