It’s a nice, old-fashioned rodeo.
That’s how Doug Beehler would described the Meridian Lions Rodeo.
Beehler has been rodeo president since its inception 30 years ago. Back then, Meridian was a town of around 10,000 people. Like the city, the rodeo has expanded — but its mission and “down-home” rodeo vibe have not changed.
The 2019 Meridian Lions Rodeo is June 28-29 at the Meridian Rodeo Grounds on the northeast corner of West Cherry Lane and North McDermott Road.
Organizers are expecting 250 contestants — the same as last year. The rodeo is put on by local philanthropic group the Meridian Lions Club and serves as its main fundraisers every year.
“Every nickle we raise goes back to the community,” said Beehler.
The club aims to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 a year — falling just short of that last year. During that rodeo, around 3,500 people attended on the second night, making it the most well-attended day in the rodeo’s history, Beehler said. Organizers are hoping to keep that momentum going this year and host similar numbers on Friday and Saturday.
The rodeo will include bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing, local steer racing and a mutton busting pre-rodeo event. It is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Every year, the Meridian Lions Rodeo is held on the same weekend as the Reno Rodeo in Nevada and the Daniel Dopps Memorial Rodeo in Mountain Home. Beehler said a lot of cowboys will hit all three in one day.
“That’s the lifestyle these guys lead,” Beehler said. “We accommodate our times so they can make it all those places.”
Thirty years ago, when the late Ralph Christensen brought the idea of a rodeo fundraiser to the lions club, Beehler told his fellow members if the club started it, he would serve as the chairman.
“I have been chairman ever since,” Beehler said.
The Meridian Lions Club took a chunk of lasts year’s earning — $19,010 — and donated it to the Meridian Library District in November 2018. The library district was able to use that money to create and then donate 1,500 baby kits to the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho to be distribute to new mothers.
Even though the event is a big undertaking for “a club of 40 members,” Beehler said it’s not just about the money the event raises.
“It’s also entertainment for the community,” Beehler said.
Admission is $8 for children 12 years old and under, and for seniors and military, and $12 for everyone else. Children 5 years old and under are free.