Erika and Lindsey Conant

Mount Vernon barrel racers, sisters Erika and Lindsey Conant, are shown here before the Friday rodeo. 

MOUNT VERNON -- Friday night’s rodeo at the Knox County Fair drew participation from cowboys and cowgirls across the country but also gave local Knox County residents a chance to showcase their talent.

Hundreds of spectators gathered in the Energy Cooperative Grandstand ahead of the 7 p.m. start in anticipation of the night's events, which included bareback riding, steer wrestling, breakaway roping, bull riding and more. 

Barrel racing was the event of choice for two sisters from Mount Vernon.

Erika and Lindsey Conant have been barrel racing since they were 10 and 11 years old, respectively, and while they have competed in large barrel races across Ohio, Friday was their first rodeo. 

Both Lindsey and Erika have experience with other contesting events as well, but Lindsey said nothing beats the adrenaline rush she gets when barrel racing. 

For Erika, speed is what draws her in. 

“It’s not about how pretty you look,” Erika said. “It’s about how fast you can go.” 

Speed is a necessity in barrel racing, as the riders try to travel in a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time. However, the event is not solely about speed, Lindsey said. 

“It takes a lot of strategy too,” Lindsey said. “It’s not just pulling the animal around the barrels.” 

Lindsey, who graduated from Kenyon College in May, and Erika, who currently attends Kenyon, were some of the younger riders during Friday’s rodeo, however some cowgirls as young as 11 years old barrel raced as well.  

In addition to Lindsey and Erika Conant, Knox County residents who barrel raced Friday included Hannah Wilson from Centerburg, Reese Todd from Bellville and Lexie Synder from Mount Vernon.

Locals participated in other events at the rodeo, which was presented by Diamond J. Rodeo Co., a company based out of Oak Hill. 

Loudonville’s Jim Church competed in bareback riding — horseback riding without a saddle or any equipment to compensate for errors.

Raelyn and Reese Todd from Bellville competed in breakaway roping, when a person on horseback ropes a calf around the neck.

In tie down roping, Chris Goodwin from Mount Vernon and Ben Taylor from Centerburg represented Knox County. 

Tie down roping involves the rider chasing a calf, throwing their loop around its neck and catching the calf. Then, the rider dismounts, throws the calf to the ground, a maneuver called flanking, and ties the calf;s legs together with a short, looped rope.

Several Knox County residents made appearances in team roping, where two riders rope a steer — one roping the head and the other the back legs. Those who participated included Kyle Walls from Mount Vernon, Chris Goodwin from Mount Vernon, Mike Hendren from Johnstown, and Rufus Goodwin from Johnstown. 

Danville’s Corbin Hazen and Bellville’s Dylan Poff rode bulls to conclude the night’s events. 

The rodeo events were not without risk. An ambulance was on site throughout the event, and 911 services were required once, when a bull threw a rider off its back and the rider could not stand back up. The rider was eventually able to walk out of the arena with assistance. 

Friday was the second time the rodeo has been positioned as the fair’s Friday night main event. The fair board moved from a concert to a rodeo on Friday night in 2019, and the rodeo was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.