WEST HAVEN — The Men’s Group from Saint Mary Catholic Church in West Haven have blazed a new trail in church fundraising by organizing a rodeo.
"This is the first time I’ve seen a Catholic church sponsor a rodeo anytime. I hear there’s been one in California, but I haven’t verified that," said Gary Thompson, St. Mary Men’s Group treasurer. "We needed to help the building fund for the church, and usually you can do pretty well with a rodeo, so I suggested it."
Thompson speaks from experience. "I’ve rodeoed all my life, personally," he said, adding that he was on the professional circuit as a rider of bulls and bucking horses. He also competed in steer roping and calf roping. He still enters team roping events, as well as judges at rodeos.
Thompson suggested the rodeo as a fundraiser to the Men’s Group last year, said Gary Sheffield, the group’s president. Although it required "a leap of faith" – the rodeo producer wanted a significant amount of money up front – organizers have rounded up corporate sponsors and gotten a good start on advanced ticket sales, Sheffield said.
After expenses, all the proceeds from the rodeo will go to the St. Mary building fund; the parish moved from Ogden into the new church in West Haven in 2008.
"What we hope to achieve is to make some money so we can pay down our debt on the church, and beyond that, I hope to have some fun, too," Sheffield said.
The St. Mary’s Stampede Rodeo is sanctioned by the Rocky Mountain Pro Rodeo Association, which sanctions many such events in Utah. It will be produced by Broken Heart Rodeo Company of West Point.
Ben Girman of Broken Heart Rodeo "puts on rodeos all over the western part of the United States; he’s had bulls to the national finals, including to the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association)," Thompson said. "We should have a good caliber of stock and also cowboys."
In addition to bulls and broncs, barrel racing and roping, event organizers plan a kids’ event and live music by SaddleStrings, a Hooper-based band that has performed at such venues as the Bear Lake Outdoor Heritage Days and Heber City’s Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair.
"There’s going to be a lot of action, a lot of fun for the entire family," Thompson said.
The St. Mary’s Stampede Rodeo will be June 1-2, starting at 7 p.m. both nights at the Hooper Rodeo Grounds & Arena, 5600 South 6300 West, Hooper. Advanced tickets are available after Mass at St. Mary Parish or online at ezticketlive.com; adults $8, children 12 years and younger, $5.
Gate price will be $11 for adults, $8 for children.