PHOTO: Franklin’s Main Street gets lined with horses, floats, marching bands and more as the Rodeo parade takes place the Saturday before the Franklin Rodeo is held. // File photo
By JOHN McBRYDE
Though he’s been executive director for the Franklin Rodeo for the past 10 years, Bill Fitzgerald still gets excited when the main event gets under way.
The Franklin Rodeo, produced by the Franklin Noon Rotary Club and in its 70th year, runs Thursday through Saturday, May 16-18, at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center. And without a doubt, Fitzgerald is bursting with pride all three days.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “The big payoff for all the work that we do in getting it ready is the Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Rodeo. … When people are sitting in the stands and you see the kids jumping up and down and having a good time, you get to see what you’ve worked all year toward. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
The amazing feeling starts to build the Saturday before the Rodeo begins, when the annual Rodeo parade is held in downtown Franklin. The march begins Saturday at noon, and groups can still register to enter as late as 8:30 a.m. the day of the parade. The latest weather forecast shows a 50% chance of rain Saturday, but Fitzgerald said the parade is on rain or shine.
“Unless there is lightning and an electrical storm, we’ll have it,” he said.
The Rodeo parade will feature the basic entries seen each year — marching bands from five high schools in Williamson County and two from middle schools; clowns from the Shriners; antique cars; church groups and others on floats; folks riding horses; and a float promoting the Rotary Club and the upcoming Rodeo.
Fitzgerald said this year’s parade will include a new act.
“There’s an Hispanic group that will have some dancing horses,” he said. “They’ll have trailer that will be playing music in front of the horses and they’ll be dancing down the street as they go along. This is a first time for this.”
The Franklin Rodeo, which is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and features world champion top-ranked contestants each year, is one of the longest-running charity events in Middle Tennessee and one of the largest rodeos east of the Mississippi River. It’s the Franklin Noon Rotary Club’s largest fundraiser of the year, and has helped to generate over $3 million in proceeds toward charities.
In addition to the rodeo and the parade, the Franklin Rodeo Experience will take place Wednesday night, May 15, from 6-9 p.m. at the Ag Expo Center. It’s a pre-event party of sort that gives attendees the opportunity to see the “behind-the-scenes” action that takes place at the rodeo. There will be food, entertainment and plenty of kids activities.
Tickets for the Franklin Rodeo are available on the website.