JACKSONVILLE — A beloved rodeo arena with a history that spans half a century will be lifted up in prayer by community members this weekend.
That’s partly why she’s asking the community to join her and area church representatives on Sunday afternoon as they pray for the arena.
“This is something the Lord placed on my heart, (given) our city and Lon Morris College and some other issues surrounding the arena …” she said. “I can see frantically how (leaders) in the city are fighting to get it back.”
She said the arena, which sits behind Lon Morris, means a lot to people and holds a lot of memories from the annual Tops in Texas Rodeo. It also houses the Bull Bash, which includes sanctioned bull riding; mini-bulls; Mutton Bustin; mascot races; and a greased pig chase.
The first year of the rodeo, organizers brought in actor Michael Landon, who at the time played Little Joe Cartwright on the television show “Bonanza” for entertainment.
When the rodeo began, a star entertainer performed four nights. Later, it went to a star performer every two nights, and in recent years, there hasn’t been a big music entertainer, just the rodeo.
The Bull Bash began two years ago after Mrs. Dyess and her husband attended a Professional Bull Riders event.
When they started the event, Mrs. Dyess said she asked God to use her to change the hearts of many, and she can see it happening. For instance, she said she got on her knees and prayed when she wasn’t sure electricity would be in place at the arena, and in the days that followed, she found out that everything was secure.
Her overall prayer, she said, is that the city will retain ownership of the arena, and that it will “fall in the proper hands of the ones who can make it a communitywide arena,” maybe with more events held there.
“I’m just trying to get everyone to come together. … Whenever you get that bond, you get good things out of that — when you can all work together as one instead of separate,” Mrs. Dyess said.
She added, “The Lord’s got the perfect plan, and whatever answer we get it, it will be the best, if it be the city getting it back (or) not.”
Whether the arena goes back to the city will ultimately be up to the bankruptcy court.
But Jacksonville Rodeo Association President Byron Underwood said he “feels confident” the city will get the arena back, and that the rodeo association will have a long-term lease with the city, just as it did before it was deeded to Lon Morris.
According to the contract between Lon Morris and the city, within seven years from the date of the deed, Lon Morris was obligated to do improvements at the arena. If the college did not do that or if Lon Morris was sold, the property reverts back to the city, the contract states.
At that time, the judge will consider the college’s request for authority to employ Tranzon Auction Resolutions, who will sell “a substantial amount of the real property” of the Jacksonville estate.
According to the application to employ Tranzon, the auctioneer would market and sell the real property, and certain personal property.
Lon Morris has an estimated 112 acres of real estate with various buildings such as dorms, athletic facilities, administration buildings, a library, a chapel and admission buildings, the application states.
In the meantime, the public is invited to attend Sunday’s event. The Bull Bash is slated for Nov. 3.