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Rodeo rolls back to town
Wild animals on a wild ride this weekend
Teigan Orr rides a horse during a recent rodeo at the Cumming Fairgrounds. - photo by File photo
If you’re going

• What: World Championship Rodeo

• When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday

• Where: Cumming Fairgrounds

• Tickets: Available at the gate; $15 for 13 years and older; $12 for seniors 65 and older; $10 for ages 5-12; and free for children 4 and younger.

• Contact: (770) 781-3491 or
This ain’t Matt Merritt’s first rodeo.

“I work kind of as a cheerleader to keep the crowd’s spirits up,” said Merritt, a rodeo clown based in Olin, N.C.

The nomadic lifestyle and work schedule mean Merritt’s on the road 45 weekends a year. This weekend brings him to the Cumming Fairgrounds, where he’ll entertain crowds between events that test the skills of cowboys and cowgirls from across the country.

These professional cattle handlers will compete Saturday and Sunday night in the covered arena at the fairgrounds.

The second and final world championship at the fairgrounds this year, the event features steer wrestling, barrel racing, calf roping, bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding.

Fairgrounds administrator Dave Horton said “bull riding’s always your spectacle.”

“But people get excited by the saddle bronc and bareback ... and those horses are bucking just like the bulls,” he said. “It’s wild animals on a wild ride.”

Each night’s two-and-a-half hour show features Merritt “as the comical commercial break” between each cattle riding, racing or tying event.

Wherever he goes, Merritt hauls a 48-foot trailer packed with “tons of different props,” including a stunt car he drives around the arena.

Growing up around rodeos most of his life, Merritt said he understands the event’s draw.

“To be honest, I think it’s the chance to see someone get hurt,” he said. “It’s like NASCAR or wrestling or any of that stuff, except it’s man versus beast.”

Horton said rodeo beasts often administer pain to their opponents.

“When you come off a bucking horse or bull, you’re gonna feel it the next day,” he said. “Those riders take some beatings.”