ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The dust is stirring at the Taylor County Expo Center as trailer after trailer of horses and high school competitors make their way to town for the Texas High School State Finals Rodeo.

The horse stalls are empty, the arena dirt hasn’t been raked, but volunteers were busy at work Wednesday putting the final details on the interior of the Taylor Telecom Arena ahead of the Texas High School State Finals Rodeo.

Slowly but surely, one trailer after another brought in their horses to the Expo Center grounds, preparing for one of the biggest events in these young rodeo stars’ lives.

“They’ve worked all year long to get here, literally,” president of the Texas High School Rodeo Association (THSRA), Ken Bray, said.

Long trips of hauling horses, missing school, and putting thousands of dollars into these animals is a risk worth taking for these competitors and their animal athletes. That’s why volunteers got after it over the last week to make sure the three arenas are in perfect condition for the many events set to take place.

Another example of this was Doug McIntyre showing up Wednesday morning to help hang promotional banners from the arena fencing.

“Watching these kids put out a huge amount of time is incredible,” McIntyre beamed. “You need to come out and watch these kids because they put their heart and soul into this event.” 

While hanging signs only took a few hours, the Expo Center grounds crew has been setting up gates, shoots and much more over the last week, preparing for one of the biggest events yet, according to Bray.

“It’s a record breaking year for us actually,” Bray voiced. “There’s $150,000 added to the prize pool and almost $200,000 being given away in scholarships. There’s a lot up for grabs.”

That’s life changing money for the nearly 1,200 competitors. Many of whom, Bray told KTAB/KRBC, go rodeo at the collegiate and professional levels soon after graduating. Deals like this is why he said the preparation is so crucial, especially in a record-breaking year like this.

“You know, rodeo is a serious business in Texas,” added Bray. “It’s truly an athletic sport. These guys put in the work, and we try to do the best job we can to make the contest here to be as fair as possible.” 

Bray said he hopes maybe one or a handful of these high schoolers will become the next big rodeo star.

The Texas High School State Finals Rodeo will be held at the Taylor County Expo Center from Thursday, June 1 until Saturday, June 10. Events will be held in the Taylor Telecom Arena and the adjacent Guitar Arena.