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Fort Armstrong rodeo comes to Crooked Creek

| Thursday, July 8, 2010

A part of Americana rides again Friday and Saturday in Manor.

The 14th annual Fort Armstrong Horseman's Association Championship Rodeo provides a taste of the old West as competitors from several states converge on Crooked Creek Horse Park.

They will take part in a full program of bareback horse riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronco riding, tie down roping, barrel racing, team roping and bull riding. There also will be live music, food and plenty of activities.

"It's one of the few remaining rodeos in the area," says Jeff Altmeyer of Kittanning Township, rodeo director and a competitor in team roping. It has grown from a start-up to a popular (with contestants and fans) rodeo drawing several thousand people.

Rodeo announcer Doug Simcox -- "who is tops in his field," Altmeyer says -- keeps the audience informed of what is taking place, and the strategies, in the various events.

A portion of the proceeds benefits the Armstrong Community Action Food Bank, among other charities. Last year's donation purchased more than 10,000 pounds of food, feeding more than 1,000 local families. "We are proud of the fact that our event can entertain our neighbors and help them at the same time," Altmeyer says.

Mariam Lamison of Allegheny Township, a volunteer at the event, describes the rodeo as "a window into the past" while at the same time offering a unique and quite modern sport with an exciting and interesting atmosphere. It's also affordable family fun, she says.

"To me, it's a local social event, too. You get to see old friends and meet some new ones, all while having fun and helping the community," Lamison says. "I enjoy the atmosphere and excitement of watching cowboys and cowgirls competing."

A member of the Horseman's Association, Lamison has had horses all of her life. "I used to be a barrel racer, but hung up my spurs a while ago," she says. "Now I just enjoy trail riding and going to watch the rodeos and local horse shows."

Up close and personal

The barns will be open. "You can walk through and see all the beautiful horses, and, of course, see those huge bulls and calves up close, then consider that a cowboy is really going to get on and ride them," she says.

Willard Powell, "The Lone Indian Chief," performs both days during intermission, combining Native American culture with his knowledge of training horses.

A large barn near the arena has been converted to the Up the Creek Saloon, where there is an old-time Wild West show from 4 to 7 p.m. both days. "Cowboys, townsfolk and the sheriff will be there to welcome everyone into the saloon," Lamison says. A shot of "cactus juice" (lemonade), a "mudslinger" (apple juice) or "sarsaparilla" (an old-fashioned Root Beer) can be ordered and penny candy purchased. "There's peanut shells and the sound of wooden floors under your feet, a player piano and cowboys sitting around tables playing cards," she adds.

Country musician Mark Anderson performs Friday near the arena and will join Joe Patrick's band there Saturday.

Hannah Sribniak, daughter of Yvonne and John Sribniak of Leechburg, the 2010 rodeo queen, will carry the event flags.

Altmeyer sees rodeos as part of the American heritage. "They bring back the Old West era. People connect to the cowboy days and can remember the western movies and cowboy heroes from their younger days," he says. "I do not think I am ready for a world in which all there is is hip-hop music and smart phones."

Additional Information:

Fort Armstrong Horseman's Association Championship Rodeo

When: 8 p.m., rodeo, Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m., calf scramble for kids; 4:30 p.m., gates open

Where: Crooked Creek Horse Park, Huston Road, off Route 66, Manor

Worth noting: Crooked Creek Horse Park is separate from Crooked Creek Park and lake, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, about a mile from the horse park

Admission: $12; $5 for ages 4-12; free for kids under 4

Details: 724-537-2806; directions: online.

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