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Cracker Day Rodeo set to return to Posse Arena in North Fort Myers

By Staff | Jan 13, 2015

One of the oldest events in North Fort Myers returns to the Lee County Sheriff’s Posse Arena this weekend as the Cracker Day Rodeo will take place at the Lee County Sheriff’s Posse Arena Jan. 16 to 18 with three shows big shows.

This year’s version will be more condensed than last year’s edition, which took place over two weekends. The adult rodeo will be Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m., with the junior rodeo starting at noon on Sunday.

Officials say call-ins were amazing, with more than 50 roping teams signing up and the usual dozens more taking part in barrel racing.

Shawn Matthew, vice president of the posse arena, said the event is a celebration of rodeo and of the farmers and ranchers who came to Florida more than a century ago.

“It allows future generations to learn how rodeo started and continue on with it. It’s harder because it’s an expensive sport and property is becoming less and less because of development,” Matthew said. “There’s so much technology and kids are in front of the TV. How many kids do you know who enjoy the outdoors?”

Not coming from a rodeo background, Matthew took her daughter to one when she was 5. Nine years later, the whole family is involved in the sport.

The Cracker Day rodeo will be the culmination of a busy month at the arena, which has already included a huge high school rodeo and the monthly jackpot race, which was pushed back a week.

The event features events above and beyond what you would find at a professional rodeo. Beside events like bull riding and calf roping will be team roping and branding, pole bending and buddy pick-up.

The barrel racing will be held in a 4-D format, giving riders of all levels and ability the chance to win some money.

There will be slack run before and after the Saturday performance, with barrels and poles before the performance and stock slack (ropers) happening afterward.

There also will be mutton busting before the performance and a boot race during the intermission.

Sunday’s junior rodeo will break up participants into pee-wee (10 and under) and junior (11-17) divisions and will feature goat tying, hairpin (with just one barrel) and breakaway steer roping.

Matthew said condensing down to one long weekend makes it easier for the volunteers.

“It was tough to take two weekends. We hire a group of rodeo workers, but more than half our workers are volunteers,” Matthew said.

The event serves as the main fundraiser for the Lee County Sheriff’s Posse Arena (which isn’t affiliated with or funded by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office), a non-profit organization founded in 1960 to serve youth organizations such as Lee County Junior Posse, 4-H, high school rodeos and other organizations.

“If it wasn’t for the rodeo, we wouldn’t be able to pay operating expenses. Last year we redid the bullpens out back to become more enticing to the PRCA Rodeo,” Matthew said. “This year we’re going to redo the bathroom. We usually do one big project