TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - At the Sonoita Rodeo, it's all about family tradition, whether you're in the stands or in the arena competing.
Early Monday afternoon, 10-year-old Gavin Merriman, strapped in for a wild ride.
"As soon as I saw people riding, I just wanted to bull ride," he said. Rodeo is in Gavin's blood. His dad was a roper.
Now, he too, builds up to feel that rush of adrenaline.
"Everyone's cheering for me and it feels like my family is out there," Merriman said.
In those nearly four and a half seconds, he feels free.
Those same sentiments that keep these kids and adults coming back for more each year at the Sonoita Rodeo.
One feeling lingers for Rene Lorta.
"Confident," Lorta said. "Whenever I'm behind the shoots, I get butterflies a lot more than out there."
Chatting with anyone at the Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo; that theme runs deep.
It has for more than a century.
"It's been good for me," said Tom Hardesty. He's been involved with rodeo for decades.
He's taken away valuable life lessons.
“It’s taught me how to deal with people, but how to rely on yourself,” said Hardesty speaking on the importance of confidence, support, and tradition.
"I think it's important we keep it alive," Hardesty said.
That's exactly what Gavin Merriman plans to do.
"I want to hand it off to my kid if I have one," said Merriman.
The three-day Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo happens every year, rain or shine.