A priest who rode to church on a pretty white horse started an 80-year tradition in Ames. That is the origin of the Our Mother of Mercy Easter Weekend Rodeo.
The 80th Annual Easter Weekend Rodeo is April 15-16 at the Liberty County Fairgrounds, 321 Wallisville Road in Liberty.
It is now a full-blown rodeo featuring calf roping, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing and more.
It started with the Our Mother of Mercy pastor, Father Michael J. McCormack, SSJ. His pretty white horse caught a parishioner’s eye.
The parishioner, Mr. Davis, asked Father McCormack if he could ride the horse. Mr. Davis took the horse to Our Mother of Mercy School and put on a show for the boys there.
“The schoolboys were so impressed that they gathered sticks to build a pen and put on a show. Father McCormack was impressed with the amount of money the boys raised and decided to build a rodeo pen behind the church,” Cleveland Walters, Our Mother Mercy pastoral council member and historian, said.
That’s how the Our Mother of Mercy rodeo began in 1938 and became a semiannual event at the church. There was an Easter and summer rodeo until 1953.
Since the mid ‘60s the rodeo has been held at the Liberty County Fairgrounds because it allows more parking and room for spectators.
The rodeo has featured some famous cowboys in its rich history.
Charlie Sampson, the 1982 World Champion bull rider and the first black cowboy to win the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world title competed at the Easter Weekend Rodeo.
Shane Hanchey, a seven-time World National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Sulphur, La., also competed at the rodeo.
The list of award winning cowboy participants is long, and the list grows with each Easter Rodeo.
“This year we will have Cory Solomon. He lives in Prarie View, Texas. He has been in the PRCA top 15 in the world for six years,” Robert Arceneaux, Anahuac Salt Grass Cowboy Association treasurer, said.
The Anahuac Salt Grass Cowboy Association runs the Easter Rodeo for Our Mother of Mercy.
“Cowboys can win $500 to $800 for first prize. There are a lot of entries for this rodeo due to the prize money,” Arceneaux said.
The Easter Rodeo is also a win for Our Mother of Mercy as proceeds go to the general operating fund.
“The money funds projects around the church and helps pay the bills. For example we are using the money to replace our lights,” Aubrey Semien, rodeo chairperson, said.
The Easter Rodeo draws between 2,000 and 2,500 people per year, and it has become a tradition in the community.
“It’s almost like a family reunion to some folks,” Semien said.
Daily admission at the gate is $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 to 12.
The rodeo begins at 10 a.m. on April 15 and 3 p.m. April 16.
For more information, call (936) 336-3004.