The Goshen High School Ag Academy is looking forward to a financial boost to its program from an upcoming benefit rodeo to be held at its arena November 20 and 21.
"I was grateful when two men from our community, Mark Johnson and Bobby Brown, came up with the idea of having a rodeo to benefit the Ag Academy, but I couldn’t have imagined how the idea would grow so quickly. It’s overwhelming," said Kelly Pritchett, Agriscience Instructor for the academy.
"I thought it would be a few of our students and maybe some other people from the community to compete, but to host a Professional Cowboy Association (PCA) sanctioned rodeo, and the first PCA rodeo for 2010 season point standings is amazing," said Pritchett.
Bobby Brown, who along with fiancé Angela Killough owns Don Walker Western Wear and The Barn in Ozark and in Dothan, is no stranger to cowboys and cowgirls in and around Pike County. But his support of the Ag Academy goes beyond a connection to his customers. Brown graduated from Goshen High School in 1977 and said he’s hopeful about the impact the Ag Academy can have on the community he still calls home.
"Students of the Ag Academy are getting a good start at a potential career making up a large portion of this area’s economy, so it’s good for the students and good for the community, and that’s worth supporting," Brown said.
Because Brown wants to see the Ag Academy prosper, Don Walker Western Wear is providing sponsorship for the event, as is Goshen Farmers Co-op.
"We want everyone to come have a good time and raise money for the Ag Academy," said Brown.
Pritchett said the Ag Academy’s arena has been in place for over a year, and much of the funding for it was provided by Alabama Farmers Cooperative and Goshen Farmers Co-op, but the upcoming rodeo means more preparations are underway.
"The arena has to be reinforced, the ground itself has to be readied, a parking site has to be prepped and some bleachers will have to be moved, but Mr. Brown and Mr. Johnson are working to get things ready for us. We’re grateful for everything they’re doing for our students, and appreciate the Co-op’s continued support," said Pritchett.
"They always do what they can to help us, and we appreciate the support of the employees and the local Co-op Board," she added.
In addition to the rodeo performance itself, a queen’s pageant will be held that week for girls ages 22 and under, including a horsemanship competition.
"Ages 13 to 22 will be required to do horsemanship which will be Tuesday, Nov. 17. If other girls would like, they can enter horsemanship as well as an individual event. The pageant will be Thursday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. at Goshen Town Hall. Anyone interested in the pageant should call Monica Law (334) 672-0859 or Rachel Owens (334) 430-3014 for more information," Pritchett explained.
Bobby Brown said Don Walker Western Wear will have a vendor booth set up at the rodeo, and concessions will be available.
"We’re still working on the details of concessions for the event, but we’ll reach an arrangement where any money cleared from concessions will go to the Ag Academy as well," said Brown, adding that use of all funds raised will be at the discretion of the Ag Academy.
"The money will not only sustain current projects, but we have numerous plans for the future, too. We have general operating costs and student supplies are only part of the equation. We have three horses that were donated to the Ag Academy, so feeding and veterinary care costs are part of our regular expenses. We’d like to get our greenhouses operational, too. We have four fish tanks that will be housed in one greenhouse, and the other two will be for propagation," Pritchett said.
But the biggest project on the horizon for the Ag Academy is construction of a large barn Pritchett said will become the heart of their future activities.
"We’ve got the plans drawn, and we have taken some bids for the construction, but when the cost of metal materials skyrocketed, so did construction costs for the barn, so the project has been put on hold," said Pritchett, but she remains hopeful that fundraising projects like the upcoming rodeo will take the barn from blue print to reality.
"I really see that barn as a way to tie together the plant and animal science branches of the work our students are doing. Our goal is to eventually make the Ag Academy self-sustaining. With maybe a plant sale from our greenhouses in the spring and a rodeo in the fall, we could hopefully keep enough money coming into the program to fund upgrades and needed materials," said Pritchett.
Pritchett added that the Ag Academy, now in its fourth year, is serving students with a variety of ag-related interests.
"About two-thirds of students enrolled in the Ag Academy have college aspirations. Some have expressed an interest in veterinary medicine, some want to be ag teachers and some students hope to work on the family farm after high school, while others just enjoy getting to know more about agriculture because it’s such an important part of their backgrounds," she said.
Rodeo performances will begin at 8 p.m. each night. For more information, visit
www.pcarodeo.com or call Don Walker Western Wear at (334) 566-0044.
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.