‘The Greatest Show on Dirt’ brings annual rodeo to Mississippi

Published 10:24 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

The “Greatest Show on Dirt” returns to Hattiesburg Jan. 26 and 27 for the 38th Annual Southern Miss Coca-Cola Classic Rodeo. The Department of Campus Recreation at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) will host the event at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center. The rodeo will start at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m.

Special entertainment will be provided by 15-time PRCA Rodeo Act of the Year, John Payne. Retired Southern Miss higher education professional and current City of Hattiesburg project manager, Sid Gonsoulin, will serve as the Rodeo Grand Marshal.

The rodeo, which began in 1986 at the Southern Miss Equestrian Center with J. Hugh Mitchell as the first Grand Marshal, serves as a fundraiser for student scholarships and professional development. The rodeo has been held at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center since its opening in 1999.

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Each year at the rodeo, cowboys and cowgirls show off their elite skills in barrel racing, calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, team roping, and bull riding. The top riders are eligible to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which is held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“We are fortunate that the rodeo continues to be produced by Harper-Morgan Rodeo Company, the producers of the Dixie National Rodeo. Because of the quality and consistency of a professionally produced PRCA/WPRA rodeo, we have been able provide scholarships annually to Southern Miss students,” said Mark Crager, director of USM Campus Recreation.

Tickets are on sale at Boot Country on U.S. Highway 49 and Hub City West Farm and Garden on U.S. Pioneer Road in Hattiesburg. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 starting Jan. 26. Day-of-show tickets are only sold at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center Box Office. All seats are reserved and have chair backs.

The rodeo is also sponsored by Southern Beverage, Xfinity, Benson’s Steakhouse, B-95, Pine Belt Motors, Keith’s Super Stores, Hattiesburg Clinic, Forrest General Hospital, Bourne Brothers Printing, The Hattiesburg American, Neel-Schaffer, Service Master, Papa Johns, Eagle Dining, Southern Miss Campus Recreation, and F45 Training.