A good crowd turned out for free burgers, door prize drawings and a Calcutta auction Wednesday evening when the Gainesville area Chamber of Commerce held its annual Rodeo kickoff mixer in the parking lot at the American Bank of Texas at Dixon Street and Broadway.

Some who attended the mixer — which was also a customer appreciation event for American Bank customers — said they were glad the weather was fair and not too hot.

“It’s usually a torture to stand out here,” a man remarked to his companion as the couple stood in line for their hamburger, chips, drinks and cookies. “I’m glad they moved it (the rodeo) to May.”

Lois Essenberg of the American Bank of Texas said she believes the chamber mixer has been held at least 11 years.

One of the events held during the mixer was the Calcutta.

Auctioneer Ken Pearse — who said he has been conducting auctions for 30 years — explained that a Calcutta-style auction is an event that one sees mainly in California or Texas.

“The word ‘Calcutta’ originated from an East Indies shipping port. The trading was done via the highest bidder,” he said.

Today, a Calcutta before a sporting event such refers to “bragging rights for the team.”

In this case, the Calcutta was associated with goat milking teams from various businesses in the county.

“This is the second year for the Calcutta. Last year the average price for a team was between $150 and $200,” Pearse noted. “All the money goes back to the Chamber.”

Pearse — a former rodeo bulldogger — also said he spent a large part of Wednesday out at the Gainesville Riding Club Arena “working the dirt” with a drag and harrow.

Recent rains left the arena’s dirt floor covered in a few inches of water. But the ground will be ready for tonight’s first performance of the rodeo, he promised.

Glenda White of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce said rodeo organizers think attendance for this year’s Chamber Rodeo may be even better than last year’s.

“From the turnout at the mixer, we’re thinking that this is going to be a well-attended rodeo this year. A lot of the senior adults are telling us they’re really glad we moved it to May,” she said.

Rodeo chairman, Johnny Leftwich said rodeo organizers appreciate the American Bank for sponsoring the kickoff mixer.

“We didn’t have the music as we have had in past years, but the Calcutta was very well received. Of course, the bidding for the teams goes to the chamber.”

Leftwich said the event “started promptly at five and ended at 7, right as the rain started.”

He noted that rodeo participants also competed Wednesday night in the slack events which were complete by roughly 10 p.m. (’Slack’ refers to competitors who didn’t get slots to perform in events during one of the three-night rodeo performances, but who paid their entry fees and compete just as the other cowboys and cowgirls do.)

“The weather’s looking good for Friday and Saturday, and if the rain holds off tonight we’ll have three good performances of the rodeo,” Leftwich said.

This Week's Circulars