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Thinking outside the box launches Killebrew rodeo into international status

Bull riding at the 2023 Keath Killebrew Rodeo (Photo by Madison Williams)

Coming off a successful year one of the Keath Killebrew Memorial Rodeo, the event in Jackson is taking on international status.

Dr. Alyssa Ellis Killebrew, who started the rodeo in honor of her late farmer husband who died in a 2021 plane crash, recently announced that beginning this year, the new name will be the Killebrew International Pro Rodeo.

“We decided to change it because the first rodeo was about honoring Keath, and it was about the past. This rodeo and going forward is all about the future,” Alyssa said on Good Things with Rebecca Turner.

Keath Killebrew (middle) and his family. Keath died on a work trip to Paraguay, South America in December 2021. Photo courtesy of the Killebrew Ag Foundation.

The rebranding comes as the rodeo was showered with accolades following its inaugural event last July. The International Pro Rodeo Association named it the “Best Indoor Rodeo” and “Best New Rodeo of the Year,” which got Alyssa thinking more about the future of the event.

“We are Mississippi proud, and really these awards go to all those who supported us, all our sponsors, our friends, and our family. We couldn’t have done this without them,” Alyssa said.

“Someone asked me, ‘Why do you think you won?’ And I think that we won because we didn’t have a script. We didn’t really know how things were done before, so we were able to think outside the box and be creative…and there will be more of that this year.”

The Killebrew International Rodeo, which will return to the Mississippi Coliseum from June 6-8, is quickly becoming one of the state’s most popular rodeos in large part due to innovative events that Alyssa and company have decided to implement. One of those is bull poker, where members of the audience can volunteer to play the card games in the middle of the arena as a bull runs rampant around and even at them. The last player sitting wins. The rodeo also brought in big-time acts last year, including America’s Got Talent favorite Chapel Hart.

 

Alyssa explained that this year, they will keep those same events around while bringing in other major performers. She added that rodeo-goers can expect a whole new slate of ideas that have never been done by a Mississippi rodeo before.

“Bull poker had never been done, to our knowledge, in the coliseum and I’m not sure that they allow it at other events,” Alyssa said. “And we have so many other fun events. We have a guy named Manu who’s coming from France and he’s going to do bull jumping. We have a bullfighter, and we’ve also got an Evil Knievel act, where a guy is going to jump farm equipment in the coliseum.”

Alyssa maintained that even with all the fun, the basis of the event remains the same — to honor Keath and raise money for aspiring farmers whether it be through scholarships or apprenticeships. As the rodeo grows, she also plans to open a farming academy in Holmes County that would give young people a direct route to agricultural opportunities.

“Love really is stronger than death, and I love him today just as much as I loved him yesterday, just as much as I loved him 20 years ago. He is the love of my life and still my soulmate,” Alyssa said. “You know, the things that we had planned as a couple, I get the opportunity to accomplish those and to continue to work towards them.”

Tickets for the 2024 Killebrew International Rodeo will go on sale the week of Feb. 20 and can be purchased here.

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