A saddle bronc rider attempts to stay on for eight seconds at the Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo.

September was a busy month at the Sonoita Fairgrounds with three major events held, the Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo, the Sonoita Ranch Rodeo and the Santa Cruz County Fair. The hard work that the staff, volunteers and the Board of Directors put in over the past several months paid off in packed crowds, exciting events and smiling faces at these successful events.

Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo

The 106th Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo, held Sept. 3 – 6, was an exceptional event.

“I think it was spectacular,” Fair manager Lacy Beyer said. 

Highlights of the weekend included First Responder Day on Saturday, Sept. 6, with an opening ceremony honoring firefighters, Border Patrol, and the Sheriff’s Office. As first responder vehicles lined up in front of the grandstands, Livestock Inspector Ron Hirsch carried the flag into the arena. The tribute ended with a Border Patrol helicopter flying low over the grandstands. 

At the start of the rodeo each day, in a moving tribute to the thirteen soldiers killed at the Kabul Airport, the Copper State Renegades Drill Team carried thirteen flags into the arena as the announcer read the name, rank, age and home state of each of the fallen soldiers.

In addition to the pro rodeo, spectators were treated to a junior rodeo, organized by Stacy Scouten, each day before the start of the pro rodeo.

“The junior rodeo gets more and more popular each year,” Beyer said. 

With 5000 people attending the rodeo over three days, the vendors at the rodeo had a successful weekend.

“I had so many of them say they had such a good weekend,” Beyer reported, adding “For both the rodeo and the fair everybody was so happy. It was a just a good vibe.” 

Sonoita Tribute To Ranching

The 21st annual Sonoita Tribute To Ranching Ranch Rodeo, held on Sept.11, carried on the tradition of ranching families getting together and cowboys competing to see who has the best working horse. Ethan Crockett, of the Windmill Ranch in Flagstaff, riding Stella, bested 18 other riders to win the ranch horse competition, where contestants had to open a gate on horseback, perform a reining pattern, work and rope a cow, all within six minutes.

A team at the Ranch Rodeo ‘Goat Git R Done‘ competition vies for the fastest time as they milk a goat, as well as rope a dummy, and flank and mark animals. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Five chuckwagon teams competed for the top wagon award, which was won by Double K Wagon, from Mesa, who finished first for their meat, bread and dessert. 17 teams competed in the “Goat Git ‘R Done” junior rodeo, 16 youth entered the Top Hand competition, won by Kaden Olson, from the Baca Float Ranch of Rio Rico, and 16 teams in the ranch rodeo competition won by the Winchester Ranch Team, from Willcox. 

“It’s amazing the support that this event gets, it’s amazing,” event organizer Beth Hughes said. Sponsors of the event included Fellows Studio, who donated the bronze awarded to the winning ranch horse, designed by Sonoita artist Deb Fellows; Apache Springs Ranch, Maid Rite Feeds and Sonoita Propane, who sponsored the chuckwagon competition; and Kim Parkey Bits, of Elgin, who donated a handcrafted bit for the junior ranch horse winner. A total of 28 businesses, organizations and individuals stepped up to support the event.

Santa Cruz County Fair

“The fair was better attended than expected,” commented Fair Chairman Lori Johnson.

A total of 3,000 people came to the fair, held Sept. 17 – 19 at the Sonoita Fairgrounds. School Day, held on Friday, Sept. 17, saw 700 students attend, down from the average 1,600 students in past years, mainly due to the Rio Rico schools not participating this year. 

Johnson and her committee added several new events to the fair, including a mutton busting contest on Saturday morning that drew a large crowd. Hatley Mathews, of Elgin, won the championship buckle in that event. 

Open entries in Pioneer Hall, were down from previous years, although the quilting department was a notable exception, with an extensive display of quilts. 

“We loved all the entries in Pioneer Hall and we hope to see more next year,” Johnson said. 

“The vendors and entertainers were really happy,” Johnson said. Many of them have already asked to be included in next year’s fair.

53 4-H and FFA youth competed in the three-day junior livestock show at the fair. (See results, Page 19). 50 animals were sold at the Champions for Youth Junior Livestock Auction, held Sunday, Sept. 19. The auction took in $185,061, with $8,168 raised for scholarships. Rummel Construction, Inc. was the top buyer at the sale, spending $36,315, buying six animals. The Steakout Restaurant/Sonoita Mercantile spent $17,595, for two animals. David Auza Contracting purchased two animals for $16,173. Pima and Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau sponsored the Buyers’ Lunch and donated $500 to the junior Livestock Show and Auction. 

The Santa Cruz County Junior Livestock Auction is managed by the Champions For Youth Foundation, a 501(c)3 foundation serving youth in Southeastern Arizona.