FFA Roughstock Challenge benefits local ag programs
By Samantha Jones and Kelby Newcomb
The 5th Annual Carroll County FFA Roughstock Challenge is coming to town on Saturday, March 9, and every school in the county is involved this year. The event benefits Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters in Alpena, Green Forest, Berryville and Eureka Springs.
Keith Kilbourn, adviser for the Green Forest FFA, said the idea of the Carroll County FFA Roughstock Challenge came to fruition during an FFA Leadership Contest in Harrison in December 2014. He said the FFA chapter advisers, Roughstock Unlimited and Clay Maxey Ford began this venture with the intentions of raising funds for the local FFA chapters to further the education of local students.
“Tee Griffith, John Swallow and Kevin Meek with Roughstock started this,” Kilbourn said. “Tee is from Harrison. John is from Berryville, and Kevin is from Green Forest. They came to us wanting to do something for FFA kids because they got a lot of benefits from the program when they were in it.”
He continued, “They’re the reason we’re able to do this each year. They don’t charge us. We do the added money. We have to come up with the $2,400, which is $600 a chapter. They pretty much take care of everything else. It’s a great thing they do.”
During the last four years, Kilbourn said this event has generated more than $15,000, which has been used by the Carroll County FFA chapters to attend district, state and national conventions. Jason McAfee, adviser for Eureka Springs FFA, thanked Kilbourn for inviting his chapter to be involved in this year’s event.
“We’re working with all three other chapters,” McAfee said. “[Kilbourn] is the one who reached out and invited us aboard. The big deal here is this is county line to county line. That’s the big part of selling to the banks this year.”
Senior Macie Pinkley, vice president of the Green Forest FFA chapter, said the Carroll County FFA Roughstock Challenge will feature something new this year: the Battle of the Banks. She said Equity Bank, Anstaff Bank, Arvest Bank, Cornerstone Bank and First National Bank of North Arkansas are all participating.
“Each bank pitches in $1,000 and makes their own fantasy team,” she said.
“It’s like fantasy football but with a rodeo,” said Eureka Springs senior Kayden Eckman.
In the past, Pinkley said, the FFA members from each chapter have been able to play “Fantasy Rodeo” before the performance. This year, she said, they are extending the opportunity to the banks. McAfee said the banks will have a representative at the rodeo and will choose their riders before the event begins. Green Forest senior Caleb Marroquin said the banks will choose for each category, such as bull rider or saddle rider.
“We see how many there are and divide them up until there’s an even number from each category,” Marroquin said.
Each bank will draft contestants from the rodeo, Marroquin said, and the bank with the highest cumulative score at the end of the night will have its $1,000 sponsorship money refunded to be donated to the charity of their choice and receive a traveling trophy to be displayed throughout the year in their business.
“At the end of the night, they’ll tally the points and announce the winning bank,” McAfee said. “That bank will receive its sponsorship fee back to donate to any charitable cause.”
Eureka Springs senior David Birchfield said he was happy to see so much support from the Eureka Springs community, especially since this is the first year FFA students have reached out for sponsorships.
“We got Equity and Arvest Bank,” Birchfield said.
“It’s amazing to see the community either wanting to help or giving help,” Eckman said.
Pinkley said the FFA chapters will still be playing fantasy rodeo, too.
“The FFA chapters have done fantasy teams in previous years,” she said, “and we’ve won three out of the four years. We have a big trophy that you win.”
“And we’re gonna do it again,” Marroquin said. “Usually, the chapter with the least amount of points last year starts and picks first. Then we go back through.”
This year, Kilbourn said the duties at the rodeo have been split up by chapter.
“We’ve always gotten along together with the other chapters,” said Kilbourn. “Our responsibility is setting up and taking down the equipment. Berryville is doing all the concessions, and Eureka Springs is managing the gates.”
He said the FFA chapters also try to give out a couple of scholarships to club members at the rodeo each year.
“I’ve got a bunch of seniors this year, so it’s a good year to do it,” he said.
Pinkley said Green Forest FFA members will help set everything up this Friday before the event and take it all down Saturday night.
“My favorite part is seeing the crowd there enjoying the entertainment,” she said.
“I love winning the trophy,” Marroquin said.
For Eureka Springs students, the excitement comes from just being involved. Senior Chris Segura said he’s astonished at how much support the Eureka Springs chapter has received.
“This is the first year we’ve gone business to business asking for things, and so many businesses helped us out so much,” Segura said. “They give us the money to put toward the rodeo. We couldn’t do this without them.”
This is the first year Eureka Springs has been involved in the rodeo, McAfee said, because the chapter hasn’t been active for very long. McAfee said this is the second year Eureka Springs has had an FFA chapter.
“I am blessed to have this group of seniors,” McAfee said. “They have done a really good job of setting the foundation of FFA. We are a team, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Eckman said he’s excited about the rodeo.
“It’s a good way to get out there and support the community,” Eckman said.
Green Forest senior Billy Butler agreed, saying he loves the friendly rivalry among the FFA chapters.
“Come out to the rodeo and support FFA,” Butler said.
The Carroll County FFA Roughstock Challenge will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at the Carroll County Fairgrounds. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for ages 6-12 and free for children under 5.