Rodeo fans buckle up for Dixie National

JACKSON – (AP) The Dixie National Rodeo spurred into action Thursday night launching a week’s array of riding, roping, wrangling and country music.

There’s hot interest on the music front from country music legend George Jones’ Sunday show sold out before the first horse hooves hit dirt in this year’s rodeo.

“He is by far the top ticket seller,” said Mississippi Fair Commission head Billy Orr, with nearly a 2-to-1 edge early on.

Jones’ country career longevity, scores of hits from “He Stopped Loving Her Today” to ‘White Lightning,” all ages appeal with a particular strength among seniors, Jones’ berth on the rodeo’s single Sunday show, with a great position between church and dark, were all factors in tickets galloping out the door.

“You’ve heard of real estate – location, location, location? Well, I think this time it was George and time, George and time,” Orr said.

A full house was anticipated for the remaining weekend shows, too, so rodeo fans are encouraged to get tickets in advance.

“For the rodeo, there’s not a bad seat … there’s action everywhere,” coliseum box office manager Drake Elder said.

Rodney Atkins’ opening Thursday was another hot seller as is the Eli Young Band, a sweetheart deal for Tuesday’s show, coinciding with Valentine’s Day.

“I would have to say, they’re all doing pretty good,” Orr said, with sales about 13 percent ahead of last year with ticket prices remaining the same.

About 40,000 folks pack the coliseum for the Dixie National Rodeo’s eight shows.

Add the livestock and horse shows, and the count bumps up to 70,000 to 75,000, Orr said.

Rodeo events include bareback bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding.

“We have over 800 cowboys entered,” said James Harper of stock contractor Smith Harper & Morgan. “Some years they’re up, some years they’re down,” he said of the competitor count. “This is a really up year.”

For spectators, that means a look at more champions and a full slate nightly.

The rodeo action wraps up Wednesday, but the Dixie National Livestock Show continues through Feb. 19.

“For a lot of people, just coming down and going to the barns is a lot of entertainment because most kids, even if they live in a small town now, don’t get to go see cows since their grandparents or parents don’t live on a farm,” Orr said. “There’s something in the barn all the time – cattle, horses, goats and sheep or hogs, all the time, and it’s free.”

Parking is free, too. Only the rodeo requires a ticket.


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