Competitive bullfighting is set to return for "some dust-kicking fun" at this year's Old Fort Days Rodeo in Fort Smith.
After "being away" for a few years, the event will be among the highlights to be found and heard by all ages at this year's rodeo, which will be held May 29 through June 3 at Kay Rodgers Park, 4400 Midland Blvd., said Randy Mizell, event chairman. Anyone with a competitive spirit and/or who wants to witness one-of-a-kind, fast-moving action will be in luck because of the bullfighting and more, he said.
"We're getting back to having a wild, fun rodeo," Mizell said. "We like the wild, fun stuff, and we know the community will like that, as well."
Chad Jones, a member of the event's publicity committee, also predicted that spectators will appreciate the bullfighting.
"There will be bullfighting happening during the earlier part of the week, and the winners then will compete on Saturday night," he said. "It's going to be great."
The Old Fort Days Rodeo Parade will kick the festivities off at 10 a.m. May 29 along Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith, while Kay Rodgers Park will host the rodeo's Tough Enough to Wear Pink, the Patriot's Night to honor veterans, the Old Fort Days Dandies, the Superstar National Anthem Singing Contest and more.
"We have one of the biggest grand entries in the country; that will be seen on the night of May 29," Mizell said. "That event on that night, that is a show in itself."
Professional rodeo announcer Mike Mathis and professional rodeo clown Cody Soseby will add a level of character to an "already-impressive" rodeo, he said.
"The Super Kids Rodeo will be from 4-6:30 p.m. June 1, and that is for special-needs children who are younger than 13," Jones said. "That's always a great, special event for people."
Mutton Bustin' competitors will be ages 4-6 and "under 60 pounds" at this year's rodeo, Mizell said. The event will include seven winners from a pool of hopefuls wishing to perform in the arena, he said.
"Everyone loves to see the Mutton Bustin' happening, so if you know of children who would do this, please tell them," Mizell said.
Other soon-to-be favorites will be various food items, as well as the various tributes the event will pay to several area rodeo supporters and participants who have passed away in recent months, he said.
Area singers and musicians will showcase their spotlight-seeking talent each day at 5:30 p.m. on the park's Old Fort Days Rodeo Stage, formerly known as the Dr Pepper Stage and the Choctaw Casino Stage, said Heath Wright, an event board member and singer-guitarist for the country bands Heath Wright & The Hangmen and Ricochet.
"As a kid, I remember coming to the rodeo and seeing what a great event it is for people," he said before smiling. "I remember arguing with my dad about which cowboy was better, Jim Shoulders or Roy Cooper."
As many as 40,000 people are expected to attend the rodeo each day, with many of them coming from across Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, Mizell said.
"Having 40,000 people is about normal for the rodeo," he said. "Sometimes weather might affect it a little bit, but the number usually goes back to 40,000 people."
Tickets are $7 for May 31 and June 1 and $12 for all other nights. Tickets can be purchased by calling 783-2393 or (800) 364-1080. Tickets also will be available beginning May 15 at the Kay Rodgers Park Box Office, Jones said.
A complete schedule will be announced at oldfortdaysrodeo.com, according to rodeo officials.
"There are many moving parts to this rodeo to make it happen, and we are really excited that everyone has stepped forward to do their part," Mizell said. "We've had a lot of good help to put on this great rodeo for the community.
"And yes, the grand entry begins at 7 p.m. each day, but we want everyone to come out to the park early," he added. "We'll have the entertainers on the Old Fort Days Rodeo Stage at 5:30 p.m. each evening. We don't want people to miss that talent, and we don't want people to miss anything else about this year's Old Fort Days Rodeo."