The West isn't so wild any more, but a group in Marana is trying to hold onto a little piece of it.

The Marana Western Heritage Committee recently formed and filed papers to become a 501(c)(3) organization, having as its chief responsibilities the organizing and staging the Marana Junior Rodeo and an assortment of other roping and riding events.

The committee puts on a day-long junior rodeo January through April on the fourth Saturday of the month at Marana's Heritage Arena for youths aged 3 to 18. The kids compete in equestrian events, riding, roping, barrel racing and gymkhana events that awarded a total of more than $60,000 in prizes and awards last year.

Dan Post, president of the committee, sees the rodeo as a family event and says it draws between 200 and 250 contestants monthly.

"We're looking out for the kids with a horse in their back yard," Post says. "We're a lot more low key than the major national and high school rodeos. It's a family thing for us."

But rodeos aren't the only riding events taking place at the arena. Every Friday night from 7 to 9 p.m., the committee sponsors rough stock riding events for an assortment of age groups, from youngsters to adults.

For kids up to 70 pounds, there's mutton busting. Young children, wearing helmets and protective gear, get to ride sheep. Calf riding is the next step up, usually reserved for 8 to 10 year olds. Post said there's also steer riding for teen-agers, junior bull riding for more accomplished young folks and adult bull riding.

Post noted the Friday night events regularly attract eight to 10 riders in the junior bull riding category, and between 15 and 20 adult bull riders. There's a $5 per adult charge at the gate for the Friday night event, while children are admitted free. The events are open to the public. Rides are scored, and the highest point ride of the night wins $50.

Regular practice sessions and competitions are held in barrel racing and team roping.

While the committee is no longer receiving money from the Town of Marana because of town budget cutbacks, Post said he thinks the committee "will be all right and will continue with our work. With all the events we sponsor, we'll be self-sufficient."

The committee has events booked in the arena every Saturday, which generate income. On the first Wednesday of each month, it hosts a women's barrel racing competition that generates about $400 to $500 for the group. The committee also gets a percentage of the concessions sold during all its events at the arena.

In addition, Post noted, the committee has two sponsors — Central Implement Inc., of Tucson and Post Feed and Supply of Marana — and is seeking additional help.

Besides the various events run by the committee, Post said he believes the group's main task lies with the children of the region.

"Our aim is to get kids to participate in rodeo events," he says. "Marana is big on equestrian issues and maintaining the history of the Old West. We want to get as many kids as possible to participate because our major mission is youth participation. That's why we're here."

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