About 60 years ago, the Leesville Lions Club, chartered in 1942, began conducting its annual fund-raising rodeo in conjunction with the fair. Around the same time, the West Louisiana Forestry Festival was added to the slate of events for fair weekend, bringing with it pageantry and a carnival to mark the parish's ties to the forestry industry.
Leesville Lions Club Rodeo
The Leesville Lions Club sells tickets to its annual Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeo and also conducts a queen's pageant to help raise funds for the Louisiana Lions Camp in Anacoco.
The Louisiana Lions Camp is a non-profit residential summer camp, owned and operated by the Louisiana Lions League for Crippled Children, Inc. The League is funded by the Lions Clubs of Louisiana, District 8.
"We are planning for a big, successful rodeo like we had last year," said Raymond Cecil, director of the camp and lead organizer of the rodeo.
This year, organizers expect local competition in barrel racing, with five racers each night, said Cecil.
The Queen's contest has been a feature of the rodeo since the mid-1950s.
The queen and her court, which are crowned the final night of the rodeo, serve as goodwill ambassadors for the club, promoting it and its charitable causes, even those beyond the Lion's Camp throughout the coming year.
The rodeo kicks off with a parade in downtown Leesville at 4 p.m. Thursday. Trail riders saddle up and begin the trek early in the morning from outlying towns such as Evans, Slagle, Simpson, Hornbeck, Anacoco, Rosepine and Pitkin to make it to Leesville's main street in time for the parade.
Along the way, they stop at favorite watering holes to give their mounts a rest.
At parade time, area merchants, organizations and queens, with the trail riders bringing up the rear, strut their stuff along Leesville's main street, throwing candy to hundreds of parade-goers, many of them children who will get out of school at noon that day.
Meanwhile, the carnival, which also opens at 4 p.m., begins to crank up, and the Lions are putting the finishing touches on the rodeo.
The Lions Club Rodeo begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5 and Oct. 6. Tickets are on sale now.
Big Dog Roping Contest
The Country 105/4-H Big Dog Bull Roping is
set for 7 p.m. Thursday night at the rodeo arena. Students from all of the schools in the parish are set to show their stuff in this contest, with the finals conducted at 7 p.m. Oct. 6.
West Louisiana Forestry Festival
The West Louisiana Forestry Festival, which celebrates Vernon Parish's heritage in the forestry industry, includes not only a plethora of 4-H forestry events; but also two pageants: A senior queen's pageant, and a junior king and queen pageant and a carnival.
Saturday at noon registration for the horseshow begins. Any Vernon Parish student or student-aged residents is allowed to participate. As many as 40 kids compete in performance, halter and speed events, including tie-down and breakaway. The event begins at 1 p.m.
Multiple discounts are available for entry into the fair and on armbands for the carnival, which is being presented this year by the Mighty Thomas. On Wednesday, armbands are two for one: Buy one and get the second free beginning at 4 p.m. On Thursday and Oct. 7, those who bring a canned good to the fair can get a $2 discount on the armband. The food will go to the local food pantry, Helping Hands.
Thursday is also Fort Polk Appreciation Day, with half-price rides for those with military ID.
Presales of armbands to the fair will also be conducted at K&R Furniture on Entrance Road; Jack's All Ya Need, Leesville; and Souileau's Meat Market in Rosepine.
Buy your ticket at a participating merchant, present it when you buy your armband for the carnival, and get a $2 discount for any night. Discounts can be combined.
On Wednesday, beginning at 11 a.m., area senior citizens are treated to lunch at the fairgrounds. The fair opens at 3 p.m. that day and the carnival opens at 4 p.m.
School day is Oct. 5 and area children are off from school. The fair and carnival open at 9 a.m. The pet show is set for 9 a.m., with the rabbit show to follow at 11 a.m.
The poultry show is set for 2 p.m. Military vehicle and equipment will be displayed all day beginning at 9 a.m.
The livestock show is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 6 and the fair and carnival opens at noon. A parade of champions is set for 7:15 p.m. at the rodeo arena, with the finals of the rodeo.
On Oct. 7, the fair opens at noon, and the carnival opens at 1 p.m. The exhibit buildings close at 6 p.m., and the fair and carnival close at 8 p.m.
Improvements to the fairgrounds this year include a water line to the carnival area; striping for the parking lot; a wash rack for 4-H animals; better lighting on the fairgrounds and at the barn; ball park improvements; and more asphalt near the carnival rides and at the 4-H barn to create easier access for strollers and wheelchairs.
For more information visit www.venturevernon.com.