The Mark Twain Lake Rodeo will be held for the 29th time in 2015. This event is an annual tradition for many during Fourth of July Weekend. Not only do rodeo enthusiasts get to see their favorite events, but the Mark Twain Lake Rodeo also puts on a fireworks display on July 4, and crowns Rodeo Royalty. Jo Ann Diffenderfer, the  Mark Twain Lake Rodeo's Public Relations Coordinator, gave us some background on how the rodeo began, what has changed over the years, and what first time visitors will find during the 29th Annual Mark Twain Lake Rodeo. 

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The Mark Twain Lake Rodeo is nearly 30 years old! How did the rodeo get started?

The rodeo was started with a group of community minded citizens who wanted a bigger event than one town could support. So, in 1985, the Perry, Paris, and Monroe City Chambers formed a group called the Tri City Commission and held a carnival. It was not too successful. They heard about holding a rodeo and held the first one in 1986.

For those that have never attended, what events can they expect to find at the Mark Twain Lake Rodeo?

The events are Bareback Riding, Calf Roping, Breakaway Roping, Saddle Bronc Riding, Steer Wrestling, Team Roping, Barrel Racing, and Bull Riding. We also have a dance each night after the rodeo. We have a Rodeo Royalty Competition on Thursday. There is also great food and vendors with rodeo wares to sell.

What are some of the things that have changed with the rodeo over the past 29 years?

Things are more technical now. The music and the fireworks all are computerized now. We have streamlined the process and with donations made improvements to the South Spillway Recreation Area that make things easier. Like a permanent building and air conditioning for the workers.

What are some of the things that are exactly the same as they were 29 years ago?

The cowboys still all have that great spirit of fellowship and competition. It still gets hot sometimes, and it still rains sometimes. We hold the rodeo regardless of the weather.

Who organizes the Mark Twain Lake Rodeo?

As stated above, a group was formed in 1985. The Tri City Commission. There are a few members still on the group today. We have 2nd, 3rd, and now 4th generation members on our group. We are all one big family and we do what needs to be done to get a rodeo together. We meet year round to talk about suggestions and ideas.

Does the rodeo need volunteers? How would someone get involved?

Our committee is pretty well set. We do sometimes have openings for people to help us out in one of our stands: popcorn, soda, food etc. If they are interested, they can email jo_ann_diffenderfer24@hotmail.com. If anyone needs more information, call Jo Ann Diffenderfer at 573-881-0489.

Dates for this year's Mark Twain Lake Rodeo are July 2-July 4 at the Warren G. See South Spillway Recreation Area just below Clarence Cannon Dam. Rodeo events begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the gate. Kids 6 and under get in for free. A full list of ticket locations can be found here. You can get the latest from the Mark Twain Lake Rodeo by liking their official Facebook page