UGA Students Get Hands-On Experience Bringing Rodeo To Athens
By: Roger Clarkson, Athens Banner-Herald
4/18/2013 2:12:06 PM
The Great Southland Stampede Rodeo has been a fixture in Athens for 39 years. It's also been providing hands-on business experience for the University of Georgia students who organize it.
"We pretty much do it all ourselves when it comes to putting this rodeo on," Rodeo Committee Chairman Cleve Jackson said. Jackson graduated from the Georgia agriculture school in December. "On Saturday afternoon when everybody else was going to the concert, we were out here setting up bleachers so we've been hard at it for months now."
The Great Southland Stampede Rodeo begins today and runs through Saturday at the University of Georgia Livestock Instructional Arena on South Milledge Ave. Gates open at 6 p.m. and competition starts at 8 p.m. each night. Tonight is student night at the rodeo.
The Great Southland Stampede Rodeo is the primary fund raiser for Georgia's Block and Bridle Club and bills itself as the only completely student-run rodeo in the country.
Last year, Georgia's business fraternity won first place in a national marketing competition using the rodeo as its main project.
"It's pretty incredible," market director Allie Merdinger said. Merdinger is a student in the Terry College of Business and is in her second year of working with the rodeo. "It's a phenomenal experience. I'm able to work and gain experience with putting on something like this. We used it as our main project in our national business fraternity competition and actually won first place so that's really exciting. It's nice to get national recognition for what we do here with the rodeo and be able to build on some of those relationships."
The biggest thing the student organizers have to learn is how to handle finances, meet deadlines and understand how a business works from the inside.
"We managed a $60,000 budget pretty much," Jackson said. "We've got to raise money through sponsorships which means we had to sell promotions. There's a lot of business involved in it. We had to learn how to work to keep our costs down just like any business would and our revenue up just like any business would. We have an advertising team that works with promotions to maximize our dollars to reach the most people, just like a business would.
"We get a lot of tremendous real-world experience running a business here. We have to remain profitable to remain in business. You can't get this kind of experience in any classroom setting. You've got to learn how to work with money. You've got to learn how to work with people and you've got to learn how to get the biggest bang for the buck so the lessons are just limitless."
Although Georgia students and the Block and Bridle Club administer the rodeo, the event itself is brings in many non-students.
Working rodeo cowboys and cowgirls from the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) will be competing in the full eight-event rodeo. It will also include many attractions and food, much like at a fair.
Georgia is not a place that immediately comes to mind in connection to rodeos like most states west of the Mississippi River. So one of the biggest hurdles the rodeo faces is reminding their fellow students that the University does have a rodeo with the same trappings as those seen in Texas.
"We have to fight a lack of awareness within the UGA student body," Merdinger said. "The Athens community knows it's been around for 39 years now. The people in the Athens community look forward to it each year.
"People who actually make Athens their home know more about it. But the UGA student body changes every year so they don't know as much about it. So we have to really work to educate people and make them aware of what we have right down the road."
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