By Michael Stewart / Executive Editor
The Meridian Star
The Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association wraps up its three-day championship finals tonight at the Neshoba County Coliseum in Philadelphia.
Top money and points earners from competitions throughout the Southeast during the 2012 season will compete for championship titles in calf roping, team roping and ladies breakaway roping; and barrel racing, bareback bronc riding and bull riding.
"These are the cream of the crop," Coliseum Director Ray Lilley said of the competitors.
Competition has been fierce at the rodeo that ran Thursday and Friday and continues tonight, with the top 15 contenders in each category squaring off.
"A lot of the top 15 are only separated by a few dollars," Bill Hudson, board chairman of the SPRA, said Friday. "It is going to come down to the last rope thrown and the last ride made Saturday to decide these championships."
While the bareback bronc and bull riding events featuring cowboys are a crowd pleaser, the cowgirls have been more than holding their own this year as well, organizers said.
"They have got some girls burning up the barrel racing," Lilley said.
If the calibre of the competitors is top-notch for the finals, so are the livestock, Lilley said.
"We have a great pen of bulls this year," Lilley said. "Last night the bulls outscored the cowboys."
A professional rodeo circuit that performed at the Neshoba County Coliseum for five years moved to another location after its 2011performance.
So when the SPRA stepped in this year for what will become an annual event, coliseum officials were excited to have them, Lilley said.
"This association is fairly new and is growing in leaps and bounds," Lilley said. "The are great people to work with and we are really glad to have them."
In addition to the competitors, the rodeo features vendors, a mechanical bull and trick riders.
Two-time Rodeo Entertainer of the Year Trent McFarland also brings his 19 year experience as a rodeo clown to the coliseum and will perform comedy acts that are popular with both children and adults, Hudson said.
"He's awesome and works with the kids real well," Hudson said. "It's just a lot of good family fun."
What: Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association championship finals
When: Tonight. Doors open at 5 p.m. Performance starts at 7 p.m.
Where: Neshoba County Coliseum, 12000 Highway 15 North
Tickets: Available at the door. $12 for adults; $6 for children 6-12; 5 and younger get in free.