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85th Annual XIT Rodeo & Reunion makes history

Posted by: tdt -

85th Annual XIT Rodeo & Reunion makes history

After having to skip the 84th Annual XIT Rodeo & Reunion in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone who enjoys rodeo or the feeds or the other activities that go along with XIT weekend were ready for a big celebration, and the 85th Annual XIT Rodeo & Reunion delivered with not just a great rodeo and all the other regular activities, but with opening ceremonies on both Friday and Saturday nights that set a new standard for the yearly celebration that will be hard to beat in the future.

Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Dana Bowman parachuted into the XIT Rodeo Arena on Friday night during the opening ceremony, bringing a very large military banner with him. (While the banner looks like the American flag, it is not a true American flag. Bowman makes sure not to use an actual American flag since there is no way to keep it from touching the ground when he lands.) He landed right in the middle of a group that included the XIT Directors and a number of law enforcement officers, who then spread the banner out across one end of the arena. Bowman repeated the feat on Saturday, except that the jump on Saturday was in much more difficult conditions as it was very cloudy and raining off and-on throughout the evening.

Bowman’s story is inspirational. He was a Special Forces soldier and a member of the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights. Bowman and his teammate, Sergeant Jose Aguillon, collided in midair during the team’s annual training while practicing a maneuver known as the Diamond Track. The maneuver calls for the jumpers to streak away from each other for about a mile and then turn 180 degrees and fly back toward each other crisscrossing in the sky.

Bowman and Aguillon had successfully demonstrated the Diamond Track more than fifty times without a mistake, but that time was different. Rather than crisscrossing, the two skydivers slammed into each other at a combined speed of 300 miles per hour. Aguillon died instantly, and Bowman’s legs were severed from his body, one above the knee and one below the knee. His parachute opened on impact.

Bowman was taken to a hospital in Phoenix where doctors closed his leg wounds and stopped his internal bleeding. He became the first double amputee to re-enlist in the United States Army in history nine months later. Bowman re-enlisted in the United States Army airborne style, skydiving with his commander into the ceremony.

Bowman retired from the Army in 1996, and now gives motivational speeches along with continuing to jump. He has given over 1,000 speeches in the last few years, including one earlier on Friday to much of the Dalhart football team and other students who showed up for the speech. Bowman also spends a great deal of his personal time working with other amputees and disabled or physically challenged people, and spends time at different military hospitals helping the wounded soldiers during the current world situation.

Beyond the one-of-a-kind opening ceremonies, this year’s XIT Rodeo & Reunion included everything that people have come to expect from the weekend, including rain on the final night of the rodeo. (Many joked that it’s not officially XIT until it rains.) The watermelon feed was still held on Thursday, the pork chop feed was on Friday, and the World’s Largest Free Barbecue fed thousands on Saturday.

A couple of other firsts this year involved the events at the rodeo for women. There was an additional event for women this year, breakaway roping. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) added breakaway roping to the National Finals Rodeo in 2020, but since XIT had to be canceled last year it was not added as an event for the XIT rodeo until this year. That gives women two events at XIT, adding breakaway roping to barrel racing. The other first was in barrel racing, as the women had to qualify at the CBT Summer Dash Barrel Race back in May in Amarillo. 18 racers qualified, with six running each night of the rodeo.

It looked like it might rain on the parade, with a few drops falling at one point, but that was it and the clouds kept everyone a little cooler than they might have otherwise been as the parade commenced. The parade was about the same length as usual, although there was a gap between two different sections of the parade that kept the crowd on Denrock guessing for a few minutes. The XIT Arts & Crafts Show was held at the 7th Street Park, and seemed a little more crowded than some previous years.

One other change this year was that Thursday night’s band, Seth Ward and the Silence, performed a concert outside instead of playing in the Rita Blanca Coliseum. Tickets to Thursday night’s rodeo doubled as tickets to the concert, although people did have the option of just buying a concert ticket for the same $10 fee. Chancey Williams performed Friday night and The Great Divide played on Saturday, and those two concerts remained in the Coliseum, doubling as dances.

There might have been a longer than usual gap between the previous XIT weekend and 85th Annual XIT Rodeo & Reunion thanks to COVID-19, but the XIT directors made sure that the those who attended were rewarded for their patience with a weekend that won’t soon be forgotten.

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