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Boothe’s promoted Rodeo 30 years

Robert Boothe, right, has promoted the rodeo for 30 years. He does, however, know which end of a rattlesnake to hold.

People around Opp jokingly refer to the Rattlesnake Rodeo as Robert Boothe’s “baby” because of all the energy he’s put into publicizing the annual event for the past 30 years.

But Boothe says the rodeo does two things for him. First, it gives him an opportunity to him to promote an event in his hometown, Secondly, it keeps him in contact with his “broadcast brothers.”

“I came to the radio station in 1980,” he said. “And in 1981, it was my fist rodeo as a media. Then I joined the Jaycees and got really involved in the event.”

Boothe utilized his past connections such as WTVY TV and radio, stations in the Troy market and the Florida Panhandle market to help publicize the event.

“Then, it was a still a learning curve for me, and the rodeo was growing,” he said. “The 25th rodeo was the biggest crowd, and we cleared about $100K without entertainment, but the next year the attendance margin went down.

“We had been talking about adding Rattlin’ country, and we decided to do it,” he said. “That has helped the rodeo grow ‘substantially.’ ”

Boothe said he joined the Alabama Broadcasters around the same time, and learned that his competition wasn’t his enemy, but rather could be used as a network to help promote events such as the rodeo.

“Using the brotherhood, we used free advertising to get the word out about the rodeo,” he said. “It’s very important for the city and Covington County to be exposed.”

While, the city gets public exposure and attention, Booth said it also has benefits him as well.

“It makes me contact my broadcaster brothers, and keep that relationship open,” he said. “I’ve also mellowed and accepted my newspaper friends, as well.”

Boothe said the publicity the rodeo has received has made Opp synonymous with the rodeo.

“When you are out somewhere and people find out you’re from Opp, they say, ‘that’s home of the Rattlesnake Rodeo,” he said. “Andalusia’s signature is the Domino Tournament and the rodeo is Opp’s.

“I can always tell how old people are by what they say Opp is the home of,” he said. “It’s the home of Lew Childre for those who are in their 70s and 80s. And it’s the Home of Blue Flame Grill, if they’re beach people, but the rodeo is No.1. It’s a way to market our town.”

Boothe said if all the workers could work at the rodeo fulltime, there’s no telling how large of a crowd they could draw.

While the rodeo does draw fame to Opp, it’s not all-positive attention. In fact, nearly every year the rodeo receives messages from environmentalists concerned with depleting the Eastern Diamondback population.

“Everyone has the right to their own opinion,” Boothe said. “Most of the groups have never seen the rodeo. We feel like we are not hurting the environment. We do education and safety shows for schools and electric companies. I think we have well-educated people.

“We are looking for new snake handlers,” he said. “But it takes time to learn how to properly do that. It takes someone with patience. We’ve never had anyone bitten at the rodeo. The biggest thing is that we want people to hear our side. We are willing to listen to them. They were right about gassing, and we stopped that practice. We need to listen to both sides.”

But overall, Boothe said the thrill of the rodeo for him is that it’s kept him in contact with the brotherhood of broadcasters.