Four teenagers from Ville Platte and Mamou attended the 63rd Annual National High School Rodeo in Wyoming in late July.
The annual rodeos began in 1949, but for the past several years, parents of the Louisiana contestants have been inviting other contestants and their parents to enjoy some away-from-home-cooked gumbo and jambalaya.
Some of the contestants and parents from Australia, five Canadian provinces and 41 states that compete in the rodeo finals had never had gumbo or any other Louisiana cooking before.
But those who have had it have come to look forward to the next annual event at least in part for the gumbo. The gumbo was served free for most of Tuesday, July 19.
Competitors strive to rank highest in their events. The rewards, other than pride of achievement, were more than $200,000 in prizes and more than $350,000 in college scholarships.
Two of the four who went to the finals got some of that scholarship money: recent Mamou High graduate Ike Fontenot and Sacred Heart High senior Rowdy Parrott.
Parrott, Louisiana state champion in steer wrestling, placed fifth in the nation in the first short round of the national rodeo competition.
Ike Fontenot, Louisiana tie-down calf roping state champion, went on to place seventh among about 180 competitors at the national competition, and placed 12th in cutting achievement.
He will enter McNeese State University in Lake Charles, and plans to keep active in the college rodeo competitions. He said he is considering a future in professional rodeo events.
Ike Fontenot says to succeed in rodeo competition, “You have to stay relaxed. You can’t think. You have to react,” quickly.
Cameron Fontenot, 16, fourth in the state in boy’s cutting, went to the national finals for the first time this year. But as a Sacred Heart High junior, he will have a couple more shots at the finals.
Briar Fontenot, Sacred Heart High senior, was a state reserve champion in team roping before going to the finals in Wyoming.