BARBOURSVILLE — West Virginia's only full rodeo celebrated its 20th anniversary with an evening packed with cowboy antics during the Barboursville Buckle Series on Saturday at Barboursville Park.
H&H Ranch and Rodeo is a family-owned and -operated rodeo in Apple Grove, West Virginia. The sport is what owner Blair Haga, 62, said people who want to be cowboys do, as it is "the cowboy way."
"It's the closest thing you can get to being a cowboy around here," said Haga.
This rodeo was started by Blair Haga and his son, Brian Haga, in 1999. Brian Haga went off to learn steer wrestling and from there the rodeo was born. Brian Haga ultimately passed away in 2002, and Blair Haga said the family continues to put it on for Brian, because it was his dream. The arena in Apple Grove is named after Brian.
Events at the rodeo were steer riding, calf roping, cowgirl breakaway, mutton bustin', chute doggin,' dollar chase, ostrich races (you read that correctly), barrel racing and team roping.
Marsha Casey, 42, Blair Haga's daughter, said most people get into rodeo as children when they participate in mutton busting, or riding sheep. When they outgrow sheep, they move on to steer, then to bull riding or roping or some other category.
"Once they outgrow certain things, they have to branch off into another event," Casey said. "We've had a lot of our bullfighters who started out riding sheep to now they're a bullfighter for us."
Some of Saturday's participants were members of the West Virginia High School Rodeo Association, including Marsha Casey's son, Bryce Casey. Bryce Casey was named All-Around Cowboy and will go on to compete in the National High School Rodeo Association Finals starting July 15 in Rock Springs, Wyoming, with his rodeo partner, Morgan Legg. The two qualified for the team roping category.
If someone is interested in giving rodeo the good ol' cowboy try, find H&H Rodeo on Facebook.
"You have to be tough to do it," Blair Haga said. "It's the most dangerous sport in the United States, because you can't control the animal."
The next rodeo in the Barboursville Buckle Series, which is sponsored in part by D&D Outfitters, will take place at the horse ring in Barboursville Park on Aug. 10. Events will take place in Apple Grove on July 27, Aug. 24 and Sept. 21.
H&H Ranch and Rodeo is located at 7883 Jerry's Run Road in Apple Grove.
Follow reporter Megan Osborne on Twitter and Facebook @megosborneHD.