It is a celebration the City of Levelland is eager to embrace. The American Junior Rodeo Association's 60th anniversary is a big deal for locals since the great event began in their own backyard.
The AJRA Board of Directors Chairman, Johnny Powell said it has been special since it started back in 1952 and remains to be a highlight for those involved. "We've just carried on the tradition through the years and we're looking forward to having another good finals for this year," said Powell.
The AJRA happens to be the 55th event at the newly renovated Mallet Center. Plans came to life in 2009 to build the arena after a $15 million bond was passed. In March 2011, the 170,000 square foot facility construction began. Doors officially opened for the first event on January 12, 2012. Mallet Center and Arena Director Wendy Scott said the facility has been an overall success. Scott says they are pleased to be able to accommodate a variety of events. "From wedding receptions to quinceaneras, to business meetings to gymnastics meets to many many many horse events," said Scott, "this (the AJRA) is just one of those that are in the building right now."
The Mallet Center and Arena brings more than just entertainment to Levelland. It serves as a huge economic boost to the City. The AJRA has brought at least 75 out of town families to the area.
"As we know, kids eat lots of groceries. These kids will be downtown, using the restaurants, convenient stores. They'll be shopping, their moms will be shopping their dads will be buying diesel and feed for the horses that they're bringing here," said Powell.
"We see our restaurants filling up, we see our hotels being very busy and they're going into town to other places to shop," said Scott.
Rodeos do not just draw a weekend crowd; the sport actually lures some in to calling Levelland home away from home.
"There are some of these kids that are in their last year of Junior Rodeo. They'll be going on to the college ranks an might possibly attending college at South Plains."
The AJRA finals begin Friday at 7 p.m. at the Mallet Center and Arena.
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