Texas singer to perform at rodeo

May 7—The organizers of Jacksonville's annual rodeo are dipping into its past to help with this year's celebration.

"For probably 48 years, the Jacksonville rodeo had entertainment, then we went away from it for a while," said Byron Underwood, chairman of the committee that organizes the Tops in Texas Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9, through Saturday, May 11, at the Jacksonville Rodeo Arena. "This year, we're bringing it back. After the Saturday night performance of the rodeo, we're going to have a young lady perform at our rodeo."

Billie Jo Jones is originally from Dallas and has been singing her entire life. She began entertaining in public at age 9, and the show has continued.

"We're excited about having her here in Jacksonville," Underwood said. "I think she will help draw more people to our rodeo, and that's exciting."

This marks the 62nd year for ProRodeo in Cherokee County, and the stakes keep getting higher. The event continues to grow in all sorts of ways, and that's vital for a community that leans on the tradition the rodeo brings to town.

"We added breakaway roping last year, and it was a success for us," Underwood said. "We thought last year was a good time for us to add it, and I'm pretty excited that it worked out so well."

A big part of that comes from the overall production, overseen by Dallas-based Pete Carr Pro Rodeo. The Carr team works closely with local organizers and rodeo announcer Andy Stewart to make sure the additional event was added into the schedule without any disruption to the show.

"The way it played out was just great," Underwood said. "When you get Pete's people and Andy working together like that with us, it was flawless. Everybody seemed to really enjoy the show."

That's the thing about rodeo. It's not just a world-class competition; it's also an evening of entertainment that is fitting for fans of all ages. The action is enthralling, but there are plenty of other moments that help keep the energy levels high throughout the two-hour performances.

This year, that will fall on entertainer Matt Merritt, who will be working in Jacksonville for the first time. Merritt has been nominated each of the past two seasons for PRCA Clown/Barrelman of the Year and has developed a following that is entertained by what's happening in the arena.

"I haven't really seen a lot of Matt, but Pete Carr recommended him to us, so I'm really excited to see what he brings to town," Underwood said. "I saw him work on TV when I was watching the San Angelo (Texas) rodeo, and I liked what I saw.

"We've had John Harrison here for three years, so this will be different, but I think the people around here are going to like what Matt does."

There's a lot to like about the Tops in Texas Rodeo. Combining forces with Pete Carr, Andy Stewart and Matt Merritt just helps the cream rise to the top.

General admission tickets are $12 in advance and can be purchased online at topsintexasrodeo.com or in person at the Jacksonville Chamber, which is serving as the ticket office, Hamman Farm & Ranch or Super Gallo. Tickets purchased at the gate will cost $15 each. Box seats, $120 for six seats, can only be purchased at the Chamber office, 307 E. Commerce Street. For questions, contact the Chamber at 903-586-2217.