If there’s one word that describes the North Carolina Youth Rodeo Association it’s family.
“I love the family atmosphere here," said Sarah Craver, a 16-year-old competitor.
The youth rodeo participants gathered at Circle G Arena this weekend, and the competitors not only brought their best but encouraged each other to do so as well.
The association was formed with the intention of offering youth an outlet for family bonding as well as life lessons, which helps express the importance of agriculture as well as care for livestock to sustain the sport of rodeo, Mandy Cranfill of NCYRA said.
"It's a great way for kids to learn responsibility," Cranfill said.
The competitors range up to 19 years old, but there are many much younger. The youngest Friday was 4.
The youth rodeo had around 75 to 80 competitors over the weekend, Ashley Galliher of Circle G Arena stated.
Before the event commenced for the night on Friday, all attended a cowboy church as the youth rodeo is a nonprofit church based event.
Cowboy Church was led by Stevie Robertson, who started out with a story about Charlie Brown and his confidence level in a movie and how we can all relate.
"We think we are a wishy-washy failure but how God sees us is loved," Robertson said.
The speech continued and ended with a prayer to help instill confidence in all in attendance from competitors to judges to the spectators.
With the competitors as well as their horses groomed to impress the competition started. But the competitive spirit was secondary to the sense of family.
"It's a family, it's just a family ... that you get along with," Jaidyn Galliher, a 14-year-old competitor joked. "Everyone cheers for each other."
“Everyone here is supportive of each other,” Craver said.
This atmosphere is one of many reasons this sport is so unique. Competitors like Augustus Kluttz find excitement in not only competing but having such good competitors.
"[The] rodeo has been in my family my whole life," Kluttz said. "I just got back into it two years ago."
Like Kluttz, many families have not only passed down this tradition but have been a huge support system for their kids.
Courtney Watson, who is a new parent to the NCYRA, was found on a horse warming up with her 7- and 10-year-old children before the competition.
"We love it," Watson said.
It is a good experience with a really good association which has prayer before the competition with a very friendly atmosphere, Watson said. The NCYRA competition's objective is to gain as many points as possible to qualify for the three-day finals, which are in October, Robertson said.