PALMER — Hundreds of people cycled through the gates during the first weekend of the 2019 Alaska State Fair in Palmer. Attendees had plenty of events and musical acts to choose from, but only one Rodeo Dance featuring the traveling country band Savannah Jack.
Attendees, rodeo riders and otherwise all drank beer together and danced the night away to live talent fresh out of Nashville, Tennessee.
Savannah Jack members include lead singer Don Gatlin, Tony Haan on lead guitar and vocals, Jay Smith on fiddle, guitar and vocals, and Kenny Ames on bass.
The Rodeo Dance followed a full day of rodeo events held by Rodeo Alaska.
Rodeo Alaska showcases the best rodeo riders the state has to offer. The group travels the state, competing at various venues and state fairs. The Palmer fairgrounds are one of the last stops of the season. The championship tour is set from Sept. 9 to Sept. 14 at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Dozens of cowboys and cowgirls 21 and over partook in the traditional after rodeo celebration at the Borealis Plaza. Charlie Potter was one of several rodeo riders hanging out with his friends at the Rodeo Dance.
“It’s an amazing dance. It’s a great after-rodeo activity,” Potter said.
Potter said this dance is usually closer to the equestrian area of the fair but it was moved to the Borealis Plaza this year. He said that’s where it used to be years ago so it seems like they’re trying to bring that back.
He said the dance is a popular way for some of the adult rodeo riders to kick back after a long day and unwind. He said it was nice to relax with his ‘rodeo family’ before another full day of rodeo at the fair.
“Events like this bring you closer,” Potter said.
Potter said that he’s been riding with Rodeo Alaska for about 12 years. He said the traveling group is a very tight knit community. He said that everyone gets along nicely and supports each other throughout the year.
“All in all, it’s one big rodeo family,” Potter said.
While the kids weren’t able to attend the rodeo dance, their role in Rodeo Alaska is vital, according to Potter. He said the Junior Rodeo riders are the key to the sport’s survival statewide.
“Without the kids coming out, there’s not gonna’ be a rodeo,” Potter said.
Potter lives in Wasilla. He’s an U.S. Army veteran with two purple hearts. Rodeo plays a major role in his life and he’s glad to have plenty of people to share it with and an annual dance to celebrate it with.
“Without rodeo, we’d have to fish a lot more. That’s for sure,” Potter said.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org