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|Bayou Black Rodeo on tap Saturday at Civic Center|
The ninth annual Bayou Black Open Rodeo is riding into town this weekend where more than 300 cowboys and cowgirls will showcase their talent for local residents.
Monroe city officials say the rodeo is one of the largest events offered at the Monroe Civic Center each year.
About 5,000 people typically attend the rodeo. People travel from Texas, Alabama and beyond to participate in the event.
John Ross, Monroe's interim director of community affairs, said the rodeo "brings in a lot of people in Monroe together and brings in a lot of people outside of Monroe to have a great time."
"We always look forward to this event," he said.
Rod Washington, Monroe's public relations coordinator, said people throughout the city look forward to the Bayou Black Open Rodeo every year.
"People ask us each and every month, 'When is the rodeo coming?'" Washington said.
"It took a lot of hard work and teamwork to make this happen," he said.
Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said he began discussions with local officials some nine years ago about having an event in Monroe that would interest young people, especially young African-American boys and girls. Mayo was told about the black rodeo events spearheaded by Frank Edwards.
"This has become a big hit," Mayo said. "Over the nine years, we have had tremendous crowds, and it's become one of the largest events here at the Monroe Civic Center."
Each year the rodeo uses proceeds to benefit a local charity. For the past several years, the event has provided funding for O.K. Program, which provides mentorship opportunities for young African-American males with officers from the Monroe Police Department.
Monroe police officer Larry Wilson spends several hundreds of hours with local youth who participate in O.K. Program.
Roughly 210 young males participate in Monroe's O.K. Program, he said.
Monroe Police Chief Ron Schleuter said O.K. Program has been one of the most effective programs implemented in the community.
"This program has done more good for our young men and the city of Monroe than probably any other program," Schleuter said. "I'll compare it to DARE or any other programs nationwide."
The rodeo will be held Saturday at the Monroe Civic Center arena from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Tailgating at the Monroe Civic Center will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A rodeo after party will be held from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, a free shuttle will take people from the civic center to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo. Admission to the zoo is free Saturday for those who possess a ticket to the rodeo.
Tickets can be purchased at the civic center box office or at Ticketmaster by calling 1-800-745-3000.