Corey Wilkinson competes in a jackpot race of the Last Frontier Barrel Racers on Friday, May 31, 2019, at the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Corey Wilkinson competes in a jackpot race of the Last Frontier Barrel Racers on Friday, May 31, 2019, at the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

9/11 Tribute Rodeo returns with added significance

The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, will never be forgotten, thanks to the efforts of the Soldotna Equestrian Association.

The organization will be putting on the 9/11 Tribute Rodeo this weekend for a third straight year, with proceeds from admission costs going to be split between the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and the Central Peninsula Hospital.

The rodeo runs Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. The event will feature free admission Friday night and Saturday afternoon, while gate tickets for Saturday night and Sunday are $10 for ages 13 and older, and $5 for seniors and kids 6 to 12. Plus, spectators will receive $2 off the ticket price with two food bank donations.

The rodeo will feature barrel racing, team roping, bull riding, calf roping and pole bending, all mainstays of the rodeo. The popular kids rodeo will kick off Sunday as well.

The event was put together to pay respects to those lost on 9/11 and to honor those that still put their lives on the line to protect the community.

Sam Lopez, SEA secretary, said the importance of hosting the rodeo comes down to the fact that it has been 18 years since the tragic events in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Many of today’s current high school senior class were not born yet, and many current college students were too young to remember, meaning a whole generation of young people may not recognize the importance and impact of 9/11.

“It’s just a chance to come together and remember what happened,” Lopez said. “It was 18 years ago. To me that’s crazy. We’re coming into this new generation of kids that weren’t there for it, they don’t see it … it’s for the older generation that’s showing what it’s about.”

Lopez said firefighters, police and emergency responders will receive free admission into the rodeo in honor of their services to the community.

This year, the rodeo has added meaning due to the emergence of the Swan Lake Fire near the communities of Sterling and Cooper Landing. The wildfire has eaten up over 162,000 acres in June, July and August, and local and Outside teams have spent countless hours battling the flames and keeping the threat away from homes and structures.

Lopez said the SEA tries to help out with a worthy cause every summer, and has helped fundraise for breast cancer and autism awareness in the past.

Last year, the 9/11 rodeo helped raise funds for fire technician Tim Weekley, who was injured on the job in January 2018.

In 2019, the Swan Lake Fire took precedence for the SEA in helping to recognize and support emergency services.

“It’s just this perfect storm where we’ve got stuff going on locally with the fire,” she said. “It’s about giving back to our local family.”

Last year, Lopez said the event helped bring in about 150 pounds of food donations, with “several hundred” people coming through the gates to attend the rodeo.

The event is part of the Peninsula Cowboy Roundup Series, which in 2019 hosted four events in Soldotna and two in Ninilchik.

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