WEST POINT — Six men dragged metal fencing and gates through the coarse sand at Eagle Ranch in West Point on Tuesday afternoon.
They linked up the gates, and piece by piece pens began to emerge that will contain tense cowboys and eager beasts Friday and Saturday night. They mounted a sign that read “Welcome Rodeo Fans.” The men moved efficiently — they’ve done this before.
Luke Lummus and Larry Johnson have been helping to organize, set-up and run the West Point Fire Department Benefit Rodeo since its inception in 1988. It is happening again this weekend.
The West Point Fire Department Benefit Rodeo has been a West Point tradition for 26 years. Organizers say it has always been about family and good times. This year, the event will once again be held at Eagle Ranch off West TVA Road in West Point.
Friday at 7:30 p.m. the first of eight events will kick off. Kids under 5 years old enter for free. Kids under 12 years old can get in for $5. Adults pay $10. The two day event begins the same time Saturday night.
Around 200 athletes from the Professional Cowboys Association will compete in bucking horses, bareback bronc riding, sadle bronc riding (that’s bucking horses with a saddle sans hand-grip), bull riding, calf roping, cowgirl calf roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and team barrel racing. In between every event, the rodeo will have an activity aimed at children: a pig scramble or a chicken scramble.
“It gets exciting,” Lummus said. “And from the grandparents to the little ones, it’s a family affair.”
The West Point Fire Department Benefit Rodeo is certainly a family affair for Lummus. His nephew, Alex Lummus, who is a member of the West Point Fire Department, is helping him set up and has been coming to the rodeo since he was an infant. Johnson has been helping Luke Lummus set up since before Alex Lummus was even born. Luke’s brother, Bobby Lummus, is a seven-year veteran of the fire department. Bobby Lummus will be competing this weekend as an amateur.
Rodeo is part of who the Lummus family is. Luke Lummus, 57, began competing in rodeo his senior year of high school in West Point. He may be too old to ride a bucking bull now, but he still gets joy out of being at the rodeo and working with people who, related or not, he considers family.
“When I got too old to compete, I still wanted to be involved,” he said. “You make friends for life in this sport.”
Lummus and Johnson remember when Wes Millshaps used to come to the rodeo as a little boy, when Millshaps mother would set him loose to play with the chickens and dogs scurrying about the grounds. Millshaps is now apart of the Lummus Rodeo Production team that sets up the rodeo, and he will be bringing his own children this weekend. The West Point Fire Department has been involved in the event since the days of retired fire chief Johnny Littlefield. Bubba Jones, who is part of the crew that has helped Luke set up for the rodeo over the last 20 years, is a 16-year veteran of the department.
The fire department receives a portion of the funds raised by the rodeo, which has been organized for the last decade by the West Point Junior Auxiliary Ladies.
Lummus expects 800-1,000 spectators Friday and Saturday night and hopes that everyone brings their family.