Loading the Chutes: Camp Verde girls bring High School Rodeo to Cottonwood (with video)

VVN/Jon Pelletier<br>
Danya Weir, who will be 15 this year, practices her breakaway roping at her Camp Verde home. As an officer with the FFA, she bears some of the responsibility for organizing the high school rodeo.

VVN/Jon Pelletier<br> Danya Weir, who will be 15 this year, practices her breakaway roping at her Camp Verde home. As an officer with the FFA, she bears some of the responsibility for organizing the high school rodeo.

CAMP VERDE - Rodeo is a lifestyle. And it's hard to rodeo without an arena.

That's why the Camp Verde FFA and PALS have been working their britches off to host the Verde Valley High School Rodeo in Cottonwood. The event, set for March 24-25, will be at the Equestrian Center of Verde Valley Fairgrounds.

It's the first time the rodeo for high school and junior high competitors has come to the Verde Valley.

"There are 10 rodeos a year all over the state," says Daria Weir, a sponsor and a roping and barrel race champ herself. "The kids travel everywhere, and it's expensive. We thought it was time to have it here in the Verde Valley."

Weir's daughter Danya, 14, is a state champion and one of three competitors from Camp Verde. Sharli MacDonald and Michelle Moscardini (the reigning Colonel's Daughter) will also be in the arena. They are three teens with loads of personality to match their competitiveness and their pride in their culture.

Because they've been on the circuit, they bear a lot of the responsibility for making sure the rodeo runs smoothly, Danya said.

The girls have been practicing their events in the small private arena at the Camp Verde home of Daria and Bob Weir.

The Equestrian Center was the only site in the area properly equipped for a rodeo. But it still needed some modification. Because the high school/junior high school rodeo needs events running simultaneously, the Camp Verde FFA program had to alter a warm-up area into a full arena for pole-bending and goat-tying.

They also induced Pierre Mulcaire to haul in materials to level the arena. Yavapai-Apache Sand & Rock contributed 8-10 tons of dirt. The City of Cottonwood and Friends of Rodeo, as well as the Mingus FFA helped out with such things as pens and panels. In fact, they have pulled together a strong assembly of sponsors, from money to animal feed, for the two-day event.

It has taken a lot of organization. That includes the events themselves.

Sharli, 15, said she has been to some high school rodeos that barely allowed enough time to get to all her events. They don't want that to be the case in Cottonwood.

The events include team roping, breakaway roping, barrel racing, goat tying, tie down, steer wresting, pole bending and the rough stock.

Danya, who favors breakaway roping, says the rodeo lifestyle is part of the culture. For her, mom Daria has set the example. Sharli says for her the way of life goes back generations. It's part of their identity.

That's the case in rural and not-so-rural areas all over Arizona. It's why so many teens are willing to travel so far so often to strive for points.

"There will be about 200 competitors plus their families coming into the Verde Valley and staying here and eating here," Daria Weir says. "It's a big impact."

So far this season, competitions have been in Payson, Phoenix, Wickenburg, Sonoita, Parker and Buckeye. After Cottonwood, they will be in Willcox and Prescott. The state finals are back in Payson in June.

The events in Cottonwood get started at 9 a.m. on March 24. An all-day pass is $10 per vehicle. That evening there will be a frybread dinner and dancing, with DJ Dizzle (that would be Danya), at the fairgrounds. Food and admission will be $8 for adults and $6 for children under age 11. Then get back to the rodeo on Sunday, March 25, at 8 a.m.

"We just want everybody to come on out and have a good time, and dance to great music and eat great food," Danya said.

Proceeds benefit the Camp Verde High School FFA and PALS program.

What: Verde Valley High School/Junior High School Rodeo

When: March 24-25

Where: Cottonwood Equestrian Arena, Verde Valley Fairgrounds

How much: $10 per vehicle.

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