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'Wide Open No Fear'

Annual rodeo to benefit Wyatt Cole Memorial Scholarship Fund returns July 26-27


BY MOLLY HAINES RIDDLE

Sweet Owen Editor

THE ANNUAL WIDE OPEN NO FEAR RODEO is slated for Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27, at the Owen County Fairgrounds. — Photo courtesy of Kassie Noel Photography

Wyatt Cole lived “wide open, no fear,” a mantra that continues to resonate as a rodeo in his memory returns for its fourth year at the Owen County Fairgrounds July 26-27. 

Wyatt, a 2017 Owen County High School graduate, began his rodeo career in kindergarten, joining a roping team with his older brother Quinn. His rodeo achievements were impressive, qualifying multiple times for the National High School Finals Rodeo during middle and high school. Wyatt’s success continued at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where he reached the finals of multiple collegiate rodeos in the 2018-19 season. 

Tragically, on Feb. 10, 2019, Wyatt’s promising future was cut short when he died from injuries sustained in a car crash near his campus.

In response to this loss, Wyatt’s parents, Greg and Isabella Cole of Eden Shale Farm, and family and friends established the Wyatt Cole Memorial Scholarship Fund and requested donations in lieu of flowers.

Moved by Wyatt’s impact, the Coles began a discussion with the Owen County community about starting a rodeo in his hometown to support the scholarship fund, leading to the creation of the Wide Open No Fear (WONF) Rodeo.

Although COVID-19 canceled the inaugural event in 2020, the additional planning time allowed for the successful launch of Owen County’s first rodeo in 2021, drawing approximately 6,000 spectators over two days.

This year’s event promises similar excitement, with added events and entertainment. Produced by the Lone Star Rodeo Company from Crofton, Kentucky, contestants from multiple states and skill levels will compete in eight rough stock and timed events for cash prizes. Each performance lasts two to two and a half hours and features eight to 12 contestants, with additional competitors running in “slack” after the main performance.

In addition to the rodeo, events for a younger audience begin at 7:30 each night. These include a best-dressed cowboy and cowgirl contest for kids under 10, a gold rush for kids 10 and under, and an appearance by rodeo clown and barrel man Greek Ellick. 

On Friday night, the Ranahans, a Western swing band, will perform under the fairgrounds pavilion. The pavilion has been expanded since last year’s event and will be dedicated after Friday evening’s performance. It will become known as the “Wyatt Cole Pavilion.” 

The WONF committee secured enough sponsors to cover the entire cost of the 2021 event and sold enough tickets to award $10,000 in scholarship funds to Owen County students. Scholarships are also awarded to students involved in the Kentucky High School Rodeo Association and the Indiana High School Rodeo Association. In 2023 and 2024, nearly $20,000 in scholarship funds were presented. 

In addition to benefiting youth, the event boosts tourism by offering family-friendly activities to the community and conducting outreach programs for children, seniors, and individuals with health issues. The “rodeo roundup” visits the Owen County Public Library, the Owen County Senior Center, and Owenton Healthcare and Rehabilitation, featuring an appearance by Ellick. 

Most sponsorships come from within Owen County. “This community has been amazing,” Greg said. “The support has been above and beyond anything we anticipated or ever dreamed of.”

The event continues to draw thousands of spectators, “Lone Star Rodeo Company has been in the family entertainment and rodeo business for many years, celebrating its 75th anniversary with us this year. They believe we’ve started a rodeo that could last a long time,” Greg added. “This isn’t a short-term event. This is going to be a long-term project for Owen County. They’ve got something to be proud of.” 

Tickets are available at the Owen County Visitor Center & Gift Shop at 300 South Main Street, Owenton, by calling 270-269-6000 or online at lonestarrodeocompany.com ($2 transaction fee). Tickets are cash only at the gate.

For more information on the WONF Memorial Scholarship Fund, visit www.wideopennofear.com

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