Fort Myers Pro Rodeo sells out Posse Arena on first night
There was hardly an empty seat in the house as the PRCA Fort Myers Pro Rodeo made its third trip to the Lee County Posse Arena.
Those who came to see one – or both – of the two shows this past weekend were treated to thrills, spills and some of the best competitors in the world compete for more than $20,000 in prize money.
In the three years the rodeo has come to town, it has seen its profile rise to where it has become one of the required rodeos for competitors and spectators alike.
The Friday night show sold out, while the Saturday evening performance had few empty seats, raising the speculation that the rodeo may make a move to Germain Arena next year.
As in the first two rodeos, they got the very best people to put on the show, with the Klein Brothers providing the stock and announcer Roger Mooney and clown Robbie Hodges.
For Mooney and Hodges, it’s been a thrill to see how the Fort Myers rodeo has grown.
“I was here when they had a rodeo in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s biggest than ever. They’re making sure this year’s rodeo is next year’s advertisement,” said Mooney, who has been an announcer for more than 30 years and began his career in college when the announcer for his rodeo team suffered a heart attack. “It’s a great way to make a living. My family comes with me and it’s a labor of love.”
Hodges, who started out as a bronc rider, has seen the rodeo grow to where they arena will need more bleachers. Despite that, he would like the rodeo to stay put.
“That’s the biggest honor a rodeo producer can have. We’ll have to do something because they’re filling the place up. We want to stay loyal to these folks. We came here first and we’d like to do everything we can to stay here,” Hodges said.
Mooney announces at 45 to 50 venues per year and about 300 shows, and does plenty of radio, commercial and voice over work.
For the first time, Miss Rodeo Florida, Sheila Shirah came to the event to meet and greet the fans and promote the sport.
For her, it has been a lifelong dream to be able to represent the state and the all the rodeos within its borders.
“I go to not only the sanctioned rodeos but also travel out west to their rodeos and other events even if there’s not a rodeo there,” Shirah said. “I’m excited to be here. I love Southwest Florida. It’s a bit of a drive but I don’t mind it.”
Getting the best brings in the best competitors. Dexter Herndon, 28, who lives on the Panhandle, has been a bull rider for 16 years and has the laundry list of injuries to prove it. He goes all over to ply his trade, about 50 events per year.
“I travel throughout Florida and the Southeast to ride for the Southern States Bull Riding. I’ve gotten concussions and broken bones, but it’s an addiction,” Herndon. “It’s a tough way to make a living. You can be a hero one night and a zero the next, but it’s nice.”
All that meant the fans who came this weekend were treated to a great show.
Lucy Maldonado brought her two children, Adriana, 10, and Angel, 9. The kids had never been to a rodeo while she hadn’t been to one since she was their age.
“We love it. The bull rides have been pretty awesome. The kids love the danger,” Maldonado said. “I don’t know why I didn’t come back sooner.”