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story.lead_photo.caption Graham Thomas/Siloam Sunday Cale Pendergraft, left, and his aunt, Kirstie Williams, participate in the Kids Grand Entry on Thursday at the Siloam Springs Rodeo.

Jeff Lee, a resident of Siloam Springs and one of the best rodeo announcers around, rode his trusty horse Dusty around the arena at the Siloam Springs Rodeo Grounds on Thursday night and hit the nail on the head.

Lee spoke to the crowd about what a challenge it had been for the Siloam Springs Riding Club to put on the 62nd annual Siloam Springs Rodeo in the midst of a pandemic. Lee asked the wonderful crowd at Thursday night's rodeo to give a round of applause in recognition of this.

We should still be applauding this morning. They did a great job.

When rodeos across the country -- including the great Rodeo of the Ozarks in Springdale -- have been canceled, our local rodeo found a way.

We talk about finding a way all the time in sports. They found a way to win. They found a way to get the job done.

Our local riding club found a way. Thank you very much guys.

I can't speak for the shows on Friday and Saturday night, but if they were anything like what I felt on Thursday, it was a welcomed break from the cruel realities of the world we're living in right now.

Even as Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a mask mandate to go into effect on Monday, we were able to hold an event that in a lot of ways didn't feel all that different than it has in the past.

There was a huge turnout for Mutton Busting and one of the biggest Kids Grand Entries I've seen. The Main Grand Entry was great as always.

And then The Butler Creek Boys delivered a stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and I'm sure they did the same thing on Friday and Saturday night. Those guys told me a few weeks ago that when they're performing, they've always got the national anthem in their back pocket if they're needing a song to sing. They weren't kidding!

Then we got the rodeo started. I got to see and shoot some photos of some bareback riding, ranch bronc riding, steer wrestling before the light gave out on me. Some of these you'll see here.

Yes indeed, it was a welcomed break from what's happening around us.

Rodeo clown and football coach/teacher Michael "Goobie" Smith, who attends rodeos all around the country, told me a few weeks ago that the Siloam Springs rodeo is one of the best amateur rodeos around. I can believe it.

For the rodeo performers, livestock folks, workers, people who depend on rodeos for part of their living, people who have been hit hard financially the last four months because rodeos have been scarce, I hope the world smiles on you guys and more opportunities become available.

I didn't grow up with rodeo, but it's not hard to see how much these people care about their sport. A couple of hours at our rodeo Thursday only reinforced that.

-- Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald-Leader. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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Graham Thomas/Siloam Sunday Dawson Payton of Watts, Okla., was the winner of the Mutton Busting competition on Thursday at the Siloam Springs Rodeo.
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Graham Thomas/Siloam Sunday Young riders enjoyed the Kids Grand Entry on Thursday at the 62nd annual Siloam Springs Rodeo.
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Graham Thomas/Siloam Sunday Leo Nash of Siloam Springs competes in bareback on Thursday at the Siloam Springs Rodeo.
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Graham Thomas/Siloam Sunday Shelby Butler holds own tight for the Mutton Busting on Thursday at the Siloam Springs Rodeo.
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Graham Thomas/Siloam Sunday Stuart Gulager of Fort Scott, Kan., competes in steer wrestling Thursday at the Siloam Springs Rodeo.
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Graham Thomas/Siloam Sunday The Butler Creek Boys, from left, Tanner Andrews, Nick Braschler, Dustin Butler, Austin Butler and Dillon Butler, sing the national anthem Thursday at the Siloam Springs Rodeo.

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