Miller, Rowland talk Horse Park success at Rotary

The Mississippi Horse Park has come a long way from its gravel beginnings to being one of the top facilities in the nation in its 20-year existence.

Briana Rucker
Staff Writer

The Mississippi Horse Park has come a long way from its gravel beginnings to being one of the top facilities in the nation in its 20-year existence.

"It started off as four metal buildings on a gravel road, it was just dreams and now it's become reality," MS Horse Park Director and Rotarian Bricklee Miller said.

Jim Buck Ross was formerly the Commissioner of Agriculture and he used to say "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man."

Legislators were sold on that philosophy and today there are 72 publicly funded arenas in Mississippi.

Hattisburg, Jackson, Tunica, and Starkville are the four largest in the state.

In 1999, 23 events were held at the horse park. And in 2009, 37 were held and 134 in 2018.

Over 60,000 people came through the gates in 2018.

Many tourists come to Starkville for basketball, football and other sports events but they also visit because of the horse park as well.

"Many of them would not come to Starkville, Mississippi as much as they do if they were not coming to this event," Miller said. "And this is new dollar to our community, this is not a turnover of dollars."

Entered participants come from all across the United States to participate in the various events.

Most come from 90 miles and further.

"They're serious about traveling around and coming to our community and they love our place and what we do," she said.

In all, 2,000 entries were made for the barrel race generated from 12 states.

"We've been voted top facility in national magazines and it's not because we're the biggest but it's because we're the best of what we do," she said.

The MS Horse Park brought back the cross country meets for Starkville High School and surrounding schools.

Visitors also love tailgating especially during the summer with at least 150 RV's.

As a partner of Mississippi State University, the Horse Park generates millions of dollars in economic impact every year.

On MSU Preview Days, future students and their parents are bused back and forth between the horse park and MSU in Smart buses to view the facility.

The Rodeo

Miller wanted to start a PRCA Rodeo, which is a top-level rodeo usually held in large cities such as Jackson.

"I wanted to have that right here in Starkville," Miller said.

Miller realized that the rodeo was too much for her to take on alone and partnered with the Rotary Club of Starkville and it has become the club's biggest fundraiser.

"You (Rotary) have truly made it a community event because they call it The Rodeo," she said. "And over the years it's given back to a lot of different venues."

One year The Rodeo raised $10,000 for the Father's Child Ministry in Columbus.

The 2019 Rotary Classic Rodeo will take place Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9 at the MS Horse Park in Starkville.

The specialty act this year will the Team Ghost Riders.

Team Ghost Riders, an act of cowboy monkeys on dogs, were highly requested for both nights.

"It will definitely be something that people in the community will be talking about for a very long time," she said.

On Friday night children ages 12 and under will get in free and are asked to be accompanied by an adult.

According to Chairman of Rotary Rodeo Committee Zach Rowlan, the petting zoo is always a favorite attraction at the rodeo and it begins at 5 p.m. Friday.

The rodeo is a way to promote the image of Rotary to the general public.

Concessions will be available in the morning and throughout the day.

The goal of Rotarian volunteers at the rodeo is to provide as much hospitality as possible because there are visitors from across the country who have traveled long distances to attend the event.

"We've talked to the people at the rodeo and they have expressed how amazed they are at how friendly everybody is - it's just that atmosphere," Rowland said.

For more information about the Rotary Classic Rodeo contact (662)-325-0508 or