The 79th Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo is here with extreme sports that keep people on their feet: bull riding, trick riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling and more.

“It’s like any piece of history,” said renowned trick rider Jessica Blair Fowlkes. “The Western lifestyle helped found America, and people forget where we come from. Rodeo is a way of honoring that and remembering that. Nowadays, kids don’t know where their vegetables come from, or their meat, and preserving this is a way to keep history going. It teaches us respect for animals, for our country and for other people.”

Fowlkes said she started trick riding in college, carrying on the love for horses she developed growing up on a cattle ranch in Tennessee. She performed in Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede in Tennessee, too.

“Horses are deep rooted into my family,” she said. “It’s something that allows me to continue my love for horses and rodeo. I get to work with my horses every day. I get to travel with my family. Sometimes when I’m changing a tire in the middle of the night, it’s not the best. But it beats a desk job any day.”

In her daredevil sport, Fowlkes jumps side to side on her horses, even hanging upside down from their backs. With her feet strapped onto a running horse, she said, trust is essential.

“If the horses were to trip and fall, you would go down with the ship. As much as your horses trust you, you have to trust them, that they’re going to hold you and they’re not going to let you go.

“After I had my first child, I found myself almost braver. It’s like it almost brought out the grittiness in me. I almost felt like I was stronger, mentally. I think kids just do that to you. They really wear you out, but I just felt more confident in myself.”

Since 1946, Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo proceeds have gone to help local military families.

“We’ve contributed to welfare funds, morale funds, such as building the morale for a family member that is deployed or has been wounded,” said rodeo board President Grant Adkisson. “At last year’s rodeo, we received more than $200,000 (for) local military family needs.”

Fowlkes, who will close each night of the rodeo, said she hopes the nights will ring with red, white and blue.

“It’s a fast horse and lots of sparkle and fireworks, and who doesn’t like pretty girls and fast horses? I’ll be carrying the American flag and standing for that, and I know patriotism is something that is so important now, more than ever, and hopefully it gives someone a chill. A good kind of chill.”

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