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Contestants in the National High School Finals Rodeo begin checking in Thursday

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 7:21 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Horses, trailers, cowboy and cowgirl hats: You’ll see a lot of them in the Capital City over the next few days as the National High School Finals Rodeo is getting underway. Some of the first contestants arrived at the Lancaster Event Center on Thursday to start checking in.

After a rough couple of days with recent storms and strong winds, staff and volunteers pulled it together and are ready to get the rodeo show started!

“Nebraska rallied, and we are delivering for these 1,623 youth,” said the Lancaster Event Center’s Managing Director Amy Dickerson.

Hundreds of these contestants showed up trailer by trailer to get settled in.

Abigail Hobgood from Mississippi said, “Now that we’re here, the nerves are kind of getting to me.”

Along with those butterflies and nerves, teenagers said they’re eager to get the competition started.

“I’m actually so relieved that I’m finally here,” said Laney Walker from Louisiana. “I’m checked in, and I’m ready to start this week.”

Contestants were coming from 43 states, Canada and Mexico and even a few bumps in the road on the way.

Ross Price expressed, “It was a good 17 hours, and we blew two tires. So, it was interesting.”

The first contestant to check in was Ember Schira from Canada, and she got in line at 7 a.m. “Usually, there are people that come days early, but surprisingly, we made it first,” she said.

While it’s an exciting time for most, for some it’s bittersweet.

“I’ve been doing this for about the past four years, but I’m going to be sad by the end of the week because I’m not going to be able to come back to nationals,” Senior Carissa Byers said.

The main thing on everyone’s minds right now is to win and to have fun.

“Good luck and good job. You made it here!”

The event center said they’re anticipating about 30,000 visitors to be in the Capital City over the next week. Many will be eating at Lincoln restaurants, shopping at small businesses and getting gas, all of which are expected to bring in millions to Lincoln’s economy.

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