Written by: Kathy Ann Gregg

Sam Morgan displays good form as the heeler in the team roping. Photo by Kathy Ann Gregg

RFD-TV’s The American Patriot Rodeo is a full year in the making and is known as the “World’s Richest Weekend in Western Sports.” With a total payout of $2.35 million, plus a side pot of $1 million, the title is well deserved.

There are three methods to qualify for RFD-TV’s The American: The top contestants in the world are invited to compete; a small number of exemptions are offered to the brightest stars in the sport; and the majority of contestants are rodeo athletes who pay an entry fee at one of the many qualifying events held across the country in the prior year.

In past years, there have been nearly 4,000 entries competing in these events, which are sponsored by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Better Barrel Races, and Ultimate Calf Roping. This group is narrowed down to 700-plus contestants for the Semi-Finals. They battle it out over a four-day period at Cowtown Coliseum in the Historic Fort Worth (Texas) Stockyards for the coveted 38 spots in The American itself.

The rodeo action then moves to the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas; at press time set for the weekend of March 6-7, 2021. This is where the $1 million bonus, or side pot, comes into play. Any contestant who out-ropes or out-rides the superstars of rodeo can qualify to win the bonus.

Parker Carbajal - Photo by Mike Rastelli
Leanna "Big Town" Billie - Photo courtesy of Leanna Billie

Florida has two female breakaway ropers who will be at the Semi-Finals—Traci Ashton of Lorida, and Leanna “Big Town” Billie of the Brighton Seminole Reservation, located near Okeechobee. (Ashton was featured in the February/March 2020 issue of Florida Country Magazine, under her maiden name of Bailey.)

Ashton competed in The Masters Elite Invitational breakaway roping competition in Weatherford, Texas, during the National Finals Rodeo in December. It was held in Texas in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions on events in Las Vegas.

Billie is a regular at the Indian National Finals Rodeo, having qualified in the breakaway roping seven times and the team roping event two times. She competes in the PRCA in team roping and acts as a hazer for Ivan Bruised Head in the steer wrestling event. She placed fifth in the 2016 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association standings in tie-down roping. Billie and Ashton have competed in The American Semi-Finals in recent years.

The December/January 2021 issue of Florida Country Magazine introduced some of the Sunshine State youngsters who will be competing in The Junior American. They were 19 years old or under at the time of their qualifying event; a few are in their last year as “juniors.”

From left, rising star Amanda Coleman, who grew up in West Melbourne, poses with roping greats JJ Hampton and Kelsie Chace in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, in 2020. - Photo courtesy of Amanda Coleman

Open Team Roping will see Karter Kagel paired with Parker Carbajal, and the longtime team roping partners of Dawson Cantu and Sam Morgan. The latter pair placed in the money in team roping at the 2019 Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo, and Cantu went on to win the coveted title of All-Around Cowboy. For The Junior American, Carbajal also qualified in tie-down roping, and Morgan will also be competing in the steer wrestling event.

And of course the name Amanda Coleman is one in which Florida rodeo fans can’t help but be familiar with. Not only did she rank ninth in the world going into the first-ever National Finals Breakaway Roping competition, she won the second round, and a gold buckle, while in Arlington.

Florida Country Magazine wishes the very best to all of the adult and junior competitors in this most prestigious of rodeo events. And it can be viewed on—you guessed it—RFD-TV!