High School Senior Colton Streeter says he’s been competing in rodeos since he was in kindergarten. At the Illinois High School Rodeo State Finals, he’s hoping to make it to Nationals in Wyoming. For Streeter, rodeo is a family tradition.
“My dad rodeoed professionally for awhile,” Streeter said while tending to his horse Pistol Pete. “I got involved with the Junior Rodeo Association when I was in kindergarten and just kept on going ever since.”
Teenage cowboys and cowgirls like Streeter gathered at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in the all purpose arena. The rodeo competitors came to the Illinois High School Rodeo State Finals for a chance to compete nationally in Wyoming this summer.
It’s a muggy 92 degrees and the stands are sparse. The teens don traditional rodeo getups in a grand style. Complete with custom Wrangler jeans and sequined Western shirts. They’re focused and extremely respectful to one another.
Arena Director Blake Sommers has been involved with highschool rodeo for eight years now. He says it’s given him an opportunity to meetsome great people.
“Some of the best kids I’ve ever met have been apart of this organization,” Sommers said. “These kids work their tails off. If the weather’s right, they’ll be practicing three, four, five nights a week and weekends.”
After the National Anthem and opening prayer they get to work warming up their horses and checking their gear. Events include goat tying, calf roping, pole bending and barrel racing. The top four from each event will compete in the National Rodeo Finals in July.
This year marks the first time in 23 years the state finals have been held in Springfield. It was previously held at the Effingham County Fairgrounds in Altamont.
Most of the competitors and their families can camp on the fairgrounds to tend to their horses. The sport is not only demanding on the contestants but the horses too.
“it’s a bigger venue for us, bigger campground. We got a little bit more room here,” Sommers said. “Hopefully, it brings a larger crowd and we can come back next year.”