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Jackpot race

Things trotting along well at Posse Arena

July 10, 2018
Pine Island Eagle

It was the first Friday of the month, and dozens of barrel racers were at the Lee County Posse Arena getting ready for the monthly jackpot race.

That is a far cry from September, when Hurricane Irma blew through town, leaving damage in its wake, including the Posse Arena.

But that was then. The arena is in much better shape, and there are huge plans for 2018-19 that go way beyond the return of the Cracker Day Rodeo, which was cancelled as a result of the storm's damage.

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Taylor McClain brings her horse home during the monthly jackpot race at the Lee County Posse Arena on Friday.

Cathy Charron, who directs the jackpot races at the arena which are held most weekends, said the arena is still trying to rebuild and looking for sponsors to get involved.

"We do this for the kids of Lee County. We want to give them a safe place to come and ride," Charron said, who added each barrel race brings in between $600 and $900, depending on the number of riders.

Sherry Groff, new president of the arena, said the scoring tower has been mostly repaired and that everything will be ready to go by the end of the year.

"We hope by November or December we have everything completed for the Cracker Day," Groff said.

This past Friday, it was the Sweet Cypress Ranch buckle series that runs almost year-round and helps the arena raise extra money for upkeep and for the Cracker Day Rodeo in January.

It was a 4-D race, which means riders and horses of different abilities have a chance to win money. The overall winner, and those within a half-second, second and two seconds, as well as runners-up in all four divisions go home with money.

The winner can expect to bring home several hundred dollars on a big night, while earnings for the runners-up amounts to about the $35 entry fee.

The races are less formal than in a rodeo, so formal attire is not required

This race came between two roaring rainstorms, not necessarily a bad thing.

"The wetter the better. The more water on that ground, the faster it is. The horses don't slip and slide," Charron said. "It's not like a horse race."

There were other big barrel races in Memphis and Georgia that riders were taking part in, which limited the field to about 40 riders, as opposed to the 80 or 90 the races usually bring in.

For the night's winner, Taylor McIntyre, 22, from Arcadia, the payout was $142. She said her horse has always run well at that arena, even though she is not a member.

"He's a ranch horse we turned into a barrel horse and he's 22 years old. We give him a combination of everything and it makes him do well," McIntyre said. "It's a nice little arena. It's a nice place and a good environment, with lots of nice people."

Taylor McClain, 14, from Punta Gorda, has been a member for four years. She said the environment makes the arena so special.

"You can count on everyone having your back. The people are incredible. We can always come here and be with my friends and my horse always runs well here," McClain said. "It's a great place to relax and lay back."

Barring another disaster, the Cracker Day Rodeo is expected to return. There are also plans to have a huge barrel race in October with $2,500 added and possibly have bulls or roping included.

They are also trying to bring back the high school rodeo that they had three years ago and for years before that, as well as the PRCA Rodeo, which drew standing-room only crowds in March.

"We've been speaking to a few different people who are involved in the high school rodeo. A lot of them are headed to Wyoming for the national finals, so we're waiting for them to return and start planning for next year," Groff said.



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