The last time a sanctioned pro rodeo was held at the Lee County Sheriff's Posse Arena, Bill Clinton was president and gasoline was still about $1 a gallon.
But this past weekend the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) came to North Fort Myers for the Hooters Fort Myers Pro Rodeo for a weekend of packed grandstands and nonstop fun for the first time in 15 years.
The fun started Thursday with a party and live entertainment from One Night Rodeo. The other two nights featured cowboys, cowgirls, fast horses, ornery bulls, rodeo clowns and everything a rodeo could have to make it quality family entertainment.
Josh Mayworth ties down a calf during the Hooters Fort Myers Rodeo Saturday at the Lee County Sheriff’s Posse Arena.
And it was all the brainchild of a barrel racer and her husband who really wanted a rodeo to return to Lee County.
"This is her dream, so we travel around the country to rodeos," said event organizer Casey Crowther, whose wife, Margo, races professionally. "We wanted to put on something so people here can see it."
The couple set out to bring a rodeo here through months of organizing, finding a stock contractor, announcer, clowns, vendors, etc... to put on a good show.
They also did their share of promoting.
And it was a little overwhelming at times.
"It started here on site at 3 a.m. Thursday morning and it was non-stop. We'll be here until tomorrow morning," Crowther said. "It was a lot of time."
Crowther got a sponsor in Hooters, which was interested in doing something family oriented.
"We wanted to get involved with something on the ground floor and the rodeo is a great family event which attracts people from every walk of life," said Kristi Quarles of Hooters. "We teamed up with the Salvation Army and are helping them raise $120,000 in Lee County. They were short on their budget and that wasn't acceptable.
Klein Bros. Rodeo was in charge of putting it together, and Errol Klein was impressed by the turnout.
"It's been 15 years since they put one on here. There were people interested in putting one on and they contacted Aaron Hudson in Arcadia and got everything worked out," Klein said. "We look forward to a few more of these."
The evening began with the littlest riders mutton busting before Margo came out with the American Flag, assisted by Natalie Arnold and Elena Joanow, for the National Anthem.
"It was a big opportunity for me and I was proud to do it. I knew (Margo) and she's trained me for the last four or five years," Joanow said, who had her mom, Arnold, and another barrel racing friend with her.
From there, the cowboys and cowgirls competed in events such as calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle-bronc riding, barrel racing and, of course, bull riding.
In between, the Hooters girls passed out T-shirts, and youngsters got to take part in the calf scramble, where they could win $100 by undecorating a calf.
And when things entered a lull, there was always Robbie Hodges to clown around with the crowd.
Hooters supplied food for people to buy and numerous vendors selling hats, buckles and other rodeo garb were also there.
For the Crowthers, the inaugural rodeo was a huge success.
"We are so excited about the turnout and how everything went so smoothly. It's a dream come true," Margo Crowther said, who also ran in barrels. "This was thrown together in about three months, once we got going we really enjoyed it and hope to have many years of it."