Cowboy, cowgirl camp combines Old West with New Testament
Forty cowboys and cowgirls answered to a higher power this week during the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys Rodeo Bible Camp at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Gardner.
Richard Gratny of De Soto, president of the fellowships' Edgerton-based Spoon Creek chapter, said the campers, ages 14-18, received a strong background of rodeo and Bible studies during the five day camp.
The camp featured Bible studies and song leader Ronnie Moyer of Simla, Colo.
The rodeo instruction included professional bull rider John Adrian of Richmond, Kan., PRCA bullfighter Eric Thomas, former camp host George Steinberger of Olathe and other experts.
Campers learned about the different events of horsemanship, bull riding, goat tying, saddle bronc riding, trick riding, calf roping, team roping, bull dogging, barrel racing and pole bending.
After instructional and practice sessions, the rodeo students competed in a camp rodeo event Thursday morning.
"We started these camps 10 years ago as a way for kids to learn about rodeo, the Lord and Jesus Christ," Gratny said. "(The Fellowship of Christian Cowboys) is an organization based upon western style people."
Gratny noted that rodeo is a family oriented sport during a time when families need to become closer.
"Families travel and work together in rodeo," Gratny said. "We are teaching these kids a sport they can do with their families."
Gratny and his family compete in several of the rodeo events including trick riding and trick roping. Gratny's daughter, Trisa, a De Soto High School junior, was one of the campers who wanted to learn about break- away roping.
"My dad ropes, so I wanted to try something like that," she said. " We trick ride and trick rope and travel all around the United States as a family."
Catherine Gilsdorf, a 2001 graduate of De Soto High School, received a scholarship to the Rodeo Bible Camp at the De Soto High School after prom party.
Gilsdorf, who recently traveled to the state competition in Hutchinson, has competed in barrel racing and pole bending events since she was 8 years old.
"I think it's the rush of rodeo that I like," Gilsdorf said. "I'm hoping to make friends at the camp and get more consistent (finishes) all the time."
The camp also gave beginning cowboys a chance to start new rodeo events and learn about the Bible at the same time.
Jerry Durossette, 16, of Jamison, Mo., is an aspiring bull rider who has never ridden a bull in his life. He said encouragement from his friends and family helped him start on the path toward becoming a professional bull rider.
"I hope that I get a chance to make it to Professional Bull Riders (PBR)," Durossette said. "This camp is pretty good for somebody who is Christian and likes to rodeo."
The Fellowship of Christian Cowboys is a Colorado Springs, Colo., based organization founded in 1974 to provide church services for the rodeo cowboys and cowgirls who were constantly on the road