Although my family are not horse people, the rodeo has been a part of our lives through out its history. I remember attending the first one in the mid 40's with neighbor Preston Hewett and until our children all left home, we never missed a performance nor a parade.
The parades were under the direction of Mr. J. Harvey Ethridge for many years and every body turned out. No matter how tough the financial situation, you would not even consider taking a child to the parade without new levy jeans, boots and a cowboy hat, and usually the little boys wore their holsters with 2 six shooters.
Betty Segers and I planned carefully to get our chores done so that we could devote the day for taking our "brood" to the parade. We parked at the home of my sister-in-law, Judge and Ruth Helms across from the jail between the Creel house and the Douglass house. Then we walked to the corner in front of the Douglas house next door to the Woman’s Club House. Now, that whole block contains the First Federal Bank of Bonifay. No one threw candy nor beads. The bands, the clowns, and the horses were the big attraction. We always liked to find many of our friends riding in the parade.
We enjoyed most of all seeing the queens sitting regally on a float or convertible waving royally to the crowd. There was none of the bead or candy throwing from her. She kept her crown and sash in place and we were able to see her face and her dress as she passed and what town or organization she was representing.
Speaking of the Bank of Bonifay, this year they are going all out to entertain the children prior to the parade. They will have hot dogs and drinks. In addition bouncy houses will be provided for the kids, and a professional face painter will also be on hand. All is free.
One year I dressed my 2 youngest in their best western get-up and put them in the rodeo king and queen contest which was at memorial field. It seems to me that the Miss Bonifay Contest was at the same time, but I can’t be sure about that.. Glen, our youngest became a casualty when a little boy, I think it was Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Carroll’s child, used his six shooter as a black jack and konked him in the head. He went on stage, but wasn’t at his best with a big goose egg. I don’t think the other boy was too happy either after his mom finished with him. At that time, there were not all the categories. Neither did people spend a pile of money on the costumes. Many pf them were homemade. If memory serves me correctly, Joni McFatter was the little Rodeo Queen.
At the performances, the clowns with their silly jokes entertain the crowd. Their daring bull fighting antics provide a necessary function by protecting the cowboys, while keeping the crowd in suspense as the clowns flirt with the snorting, pawing, enraged beasts. Nothing compares, though, with the excitement the people in the west stands experienced one year when one of those creatures jumped the fence into the stands. People parted and gave him room. I think the only casualty was from one person jumping off the back of the bleachers. After that, double reinforced fence have been used.
The funniest sight that I recall from a Bonifay Rodeo was when the long-time Rodeo Chairman(Do I dare call his name?) raced his horse into the arena. The horse came to a sudden stop, but the chairman kept going and pitched headlong into the grass. Fortunately nothing was hurt but his pride.
Through their middle and high school years our two youngest played in the HCHS band and they always played before all performances of the rodeo. That was very much a part of their growing up as it was for hundreds of Holmes County High School Kids. Each would have a favorite memory of the Rodeo. When Kiwanian Paul Bowyer suggested in 1946 that they hold a rodeo as a fund raiser, he had no idea of the impact that suggestion would have on Bonifay throughout the years. It has certainly put us on the map. Even though ranch rodeos and high school rodeos have become popular in recent years, nothing can measure up to Bonifay’Northwest Florida Championship Rodeo. See you at the parade even if I can’t make it to the performances.