FARMINGTON – Rodeo returned to the San Juan County Sheriff Posse's grounds today as the New Mexico Southwest Junior Rodeo Association hosted its first rodeo of the year.

The rodeo continues Sunday. The rodeo arena at the posse's grounds, located near Farmington Lake, had not been used for rodeo in about 17 years.

Michelle Williams, the posse secretary, said the nonprofit organization stopped having rodeos at the grounds after 1999 when membership dropped and interest declined.

A few years ago, the posse decided to bring back the rodeos, and members of the New Mexico Southwest Junior Rodeo Association were eager to find a new place to compete.

"It's nice to be outside and in a different arena," said Kelly McConnel, the co-founder of the association.

She said in the past, the association's rodeos have been at McGee Park, and the other rodeos the association will host this year will also be at McGee Park.

"Horses get used to one place," McConnel said.

She said sometimes horses get so used to running in one arena that they aren't able to compete elsewhere.

Cami Reed, an Aztec High School rodeo athlete, was one of about 100 competitors in today's event.

"I ran here when I was little, so I kind of knew how it was set up," she said.

However, she said she had not been to the grounds in a long time.

Reed, 15, decided to use the rodeo this weekend to gain experience for her new horse, Bella. Today was the first time Reed had competed on Bella in barrel racing.

"She did really good," Reed said.

Bella ran the barrels in 17.7 seconds, and Reed hopes to use the filly when competing for Aztec's rodeo team this year.

The rodeo highlighted the posse's focus.

"We've been really dedicating everything back to the youth," said Dave Williams, the chairman of the executive board.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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