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Southern Miss Coca-Cola Classic Rodeo Returns to Hattiesburg Feb. 17-18

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 11:54am | By: April Jordan

Tommy Thornton

The ‘Greatest Show on Dirt' is returning to Hattiesburg Feb. 17-18 for the 32nd annual Southern Miss Coca-Cola Classic Rodeo. The Department of Recreational Sports at The University of Southern Mississippi will host the event at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center, which will start at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m.

Tommy Thornton, executive director of Hattiesburg Clinic, will serve as grand marshal for this year's rodeo. Lecile Harris, a six-time Pro Rodeo Clown of the Year, will again make an appearance at the rodeo this year. Lecile, a 50-year rodeo veteran, works nearly 125 performances a year at the world's biggest rodeos.

Lecile entered the rodeo scene as a bullfighter in the 1950's and 60's and helped transform the sport from thrill show to the skillful art it is today. He has also worked on various TV shows including a regular role on “HEE HAW” and movies like “The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James” and “W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings” with Burt Reynolds. Bob Lowe, retired director of Southern Miss Dining and Grand Marshal of the 18th annual Southern Miss Coca-Cola Classic Rodeo, said, “Lecile's comedic mannerisms, acts and jokes are copied by clowns and showmen across the globe. For nearly half a century, Lecile's bullfighting and comedic ability have saved many a cowboy and brought smiles and laughter to millions of people. He is truly one of rodeo's legends.”

The rodeo, which began in 1986 at the Southern Miss Equestrian Center with J. Hugh Mitchell as the first Grand Marshal, serves as a fundraiser for student scholarships and professional development. The rodeo has been held at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center since its opening in 1999. Each year at the rodeo, cowboys and cowgirls show off their elite skills in barrel racing, calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, team roping, and bull riding. The top riders will qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which is held in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

“We are fortunate that the rodeo continues to be produced by Harper and Morgan Rodeo, the producers of the Dixie Nationals and provider of livestock to the National Finals Rodeo.  Because of the quality and consistency of a professionally produced PRCA/WPRA rodeo, we have been able provide scholarships annually to Southern Miss students,” said Mark Crager, director of Southern Miss Recreational Sports.

Tickets for the rodeo are on sale at Boot Country on U.S. Highway 49 and Hub City West on U.S. Pioneer Road in Hattiesburg, and are $12 in advance and $15 after Feb. 16. All seats are reserved and have chair backs.

The rodeo is also sponsored by Southern Beverage, Comcast, B-95, McMullan Motors, Keith's Super Stores, Hattiesburg Clinic Sports Medicine, Forrest General Hospital, Copy Cats Printing, The Hattiesburg American, Neel Schaffer, Service Master and Southern Miss Recreational Sports.