Bull riders and rodeo clowns are limbering up for this year’s Milton Rodeo which is set to return with help from the Nowra Rodeo Association (NRA).
The Milton Show Society’s popular event will go ahead for the first time in four years after it was cancelled due to COVID-19 and wet weather. The aging rodeo chutes and yards were removed from the showground in 2022, meaning the NRA’s mobile facility had to be called in this year.
Milton Rodeo coordinator Jane Quinn said the rodeo was an “extremely popular” country tradition and it was important that it was returned to the show program.
“With the recent population growth, it is wonderful that we can offer this type of entertainment to show the newcomers what we are all about,” she said.
“The thrills and spills keep the audience on the edge of their seats. I know there will be many young cowboys and cowgirls in the crowd watching eagerly with hopes of becoming a bull rider when they are older and braver.”
The Milton Rodeo has more than $3000 in prize money up for grabs and is expected to attract top riders from the rodeo circuit.
“The Open Bull Ride has a total prize pool of $1500, with the winner also taking home a custom-made buckle from Ride Tuff valued at $300,” Jane said.
“For competitors who are not ready for the big bulls, we have Junior, Juvenile and Open Steer Rides. Hopefully a few local riders having a go to see if they can make the eight-second buzzer.”
Milton resident and retired bull rider Jason Shea won’t be putting on the spurs this year, but he will be taking charge of the microphone alongside former rodeo organiser and local cowboy Jackson (Jacko) Bower.
Jason said it was great to see the action return to Milton after hosting the biggest rodeo event in the country – the national finals in the early 1980s.
He recalls being a kid in the crowd filled with friends and family cheering the bull riders on, and always wanting to give it a go.
“I remember seeing my first really good bull ride in Milton and I was in awe,” he said.
“Unfortunately due to my cousin Bruce (Shea) getting his jugular torn out and nearly dying at the Croobyar Cup, I was never allowed to ride which kind of fuelled my determination to take it on in later years.”
He said Milton was always a unique rodeo because it was a twilight rodeo that catered for all ages – from poddy calf rides to the thrilling open bull rides.
“It was almost a rite of passage as a local to get on a poddy calf or a steer. You couldn’t wait to get to school on Monday and compare notes with your mates about your experience,” he added.
Jason has helped many local kids get on and ride, but his fondest memories are seeing the network of volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the rodeo happen every year – rain, hail or shine.
“And I guess neither Jacko or me will forget my last ride there, getting myself sandwiched between the bull, the clown and Jacko.”
He said there were plans in the pipeline for a new set of chutes and an area for team penning events and rodeos down the back of the Milton showground.
The old chutes, built by Paul Helmore in conjunction with the Milton Rodeo Company, were originally designed to be portable and shared between the two rodeo clubs.
“The legendary bucking bull ‘Chainsaw’ would have exited from these old chutes,” Jason said.
Jane said the Nowra Rodeo Association offered a great service to smaller regional shows and towns that didn’t have the facilities to conduct a rodeo.
“The NRA is a professional contracting team who supply everything – the bulls, steers, judges, clowns, chutes, yards and fencing panels,” she said.
“Jason will be keeping us all informed about the bulls and the boys with some great music to get the crowd pumping.”
The 2024 Milton Show will be held over three days for the first time, with events from 1 – 3 March and the rodeo set to kick off in the main arena at 6:30 pm on Saturday 2 March.