The wild West lives today, in the hearts and minds of its fans and historians. But in Marana, the spirit of western culture, lives on in a dusty corral next to Interstate 10 which routes horse-lovers there from all over Arizona. The Marana Western Heritage Arena sets the stage for cowboys and cowgirls of all ages to grow up Western and realize their ambitions and goals.
Most weeks folks converge there to barrel race and ride bulls. Every friday night, kids come and “to hang out” watching family and friends perform in the arena. Bull riding starts at 7pm and varies whether you have experienced riders or someone new trying on the sport for the first time. Why would someone climb onto the back of a huge bull, knowing it would eventually launch them skyward?
“A passion for animals and the adrenaline for life,” says Jessica Reyna whose teenage son, Benaiah has decided he would ride a bull tonight, his first, but not his last. “He’s a bull-rider now!,” comes the voice from the speakers, “Welcome to the family!” as Benaiah picks himself up, dusts off and climbs out of the arena. Some fridays, dozens of younger kids show up for “mutton-busting”. Climbing on top of huge sheep, grabbing the rope, and letting go. The kids love it and for many, it is just a question of time, before they trade sheep for bulls. It’s not all guys who climb onto the unridable, two girls, who come most Friday because their friends are here say if they had the cash they would go for it. They felt sure, that in the beginning, they might “come off pretty early” at first, but eventually they could get a good ride. Their day is coming they say…
Tonight, behind the chutes, four or five friends are stretching, talking, laughing and getting ready. Wives and girlfriends stand near talking but watching as the guys get ready. Many of these riders are active Air Force, airmen who had to get their CO’s permission before they could ride bulls. Most have been here before, Mike Fuentes has been riding for about a year and wants to improve his ranking and get his PRCA card, maybe win some cash. He is real impressed with the arena and folks who attend, it’s like family he says, when I first came out here I had no gear just wanted to ride. Folks pulled together enough gear for him to get thrown off, since then, he keeps come back for more. “It’s like family here”, he says.
When the riders are queued and ready for the gate to open. Most wearing face mask, chest protection and rubber mouth guards, they suck it up as the g-forces grab them. Everyone has their smartphones out filming and capturing the ride to be dissected later for fun and training, either way, they want a record for their ride tonight. Who would believe it otherwise ?
John Schmidt is a one-man rodeo, he’s is master-of-ceremonies and announcer, he helps load bulls and picks up cowpokes off the ground. He doesn’t ride bulls anymore, after 15 years he wants to pass his skills on to others, while keeping the arena running safely. While Schmidt gets much of the credit for the friday night bull adventure pitting 160 pound cowboys against 2400 pound bulls, he is the first to pass the credit on down the line. “Dan idea for the arena”, he deflects, “was to create a place where folks could bring their families, to visit and play together”. Ten years ago Dan Post built the arena, bull chutes and corrals, most nights he is the fella on top of the tractor who smooths out the soil in the performance area and gets it ready for the next group of riders.
Then he does it again, and again, all night long. “This is my service” says Dan Post, with the humility of a guy who doesn’t want the limelight. Fact is, Dan’s service extends to the Marana School Board, where he has served ten terms, helped build all of Marana’s Schools and knows all the employees who have been hired in their public schools for the past forty years. He’s running again this year for the school board, “Because they need my experience!” he says. Post’s experience is unparalleled, he’s lived in Marana over 50 years and while he misses the old days and “hates seeing all the farmland go away”. As President of the Town of Marana Western Heritage Committee, whose mission is to promote a Western way of life, allowing opportunities for people wanting an equestrian experience. Post’s prominent role on the school board, may be the reason, the arena was built on high school land.
Either way, it fills up most weeks for the varying events, some with jackpots, bull riders for $50 can get into the money if they stay on for eight seconds. Some nights they might win $500, but eight seconds can feel like eternity, so some don’t. Jackpot Barrel racing, open to both Cowboys and Cowgirls, on the first Wednesday of each month, might bring out 50-60 riders who could win $150-$200 with some style and a quick ride.
Saturday can often bring hundred’s of youngsters and horses out for Horse Gymkana’s that run the kids and their critters through the paces, pillons or barrels. Four-H groups from all over southern Arizona and Tucson turn out to await their turn as they navigate the obstacle course. They learn valuable lessons in caring for animals and meet kids they will grow up with, each taking their place in the competition’s rankings.
Lots of energy goes into making up Marana’s Western Heritage Arena, covering the
events, coaching the kids, organizing the livestock, watering down the dust that fills the air and might drift onto I-10 if Dan Post wasn’t driving the water truck around and dampening it down, nailing down all the loose soil in the area.
Because the Marana Arena is such a class act, the Grand Canyon Rodeo Association, often has a rodeo there on the grounds bringing in top ranked cowboys and cowgirls to compete for bigger money and eventually getting into the big money which makes Rodeo a full-time job for lots of cowpokes. It is something you have to love because many suffer lots of broken bones, cuts, scrapes and dislocations, whatever, they all go back for more because they love to Rodeo…
Bull Riding Practice Every Friday 7 PM Sharp
Mutton Busting, Calf Riding, Steer Riding, Jr. Bulls and Bulls $5 admission adults, Children 12 & under free
Mutton Busters must weigh under 70lbs $5 fee Steer Riding $10, Bulls $20
First time Bull riders are welcome equipment available at the arena rope, helmet, vest
|Directions to Arena
I-10 exit 236 take eastbound frontage at Chevron 1/2 mile east at Postvale Rd.
For more info call 520-248-1736
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