A grimacing competitor tries to put a stop to an ornery critter at the WM Grocery Rodeo Friday night in Heflin.

HEFLIN — Roping calves, riding broncos and wrestling steers were just part of the antics and pageantry at the WM Grocery Rodeo Friday night in Heflin. The rain held off long enough for cowboys, cowgirls and a rodeo clown to entertain the estimated 400 people who watched from wooden and metal bleachers on humid late spring night.

A carnival atmosphere greeted the cowboy boot-clad masses as soon as they entered the gates; a bungee trampoline ride sent small children airborne.

The band Turnbuckle performed on top of a 53-foot flatbed trailer belting out a variety of songs from Hank Jr. to John Denver as folks chomped on barbecue nachos, freshly squeezed lemonade and deep fried Oreos. Turnbuckle lead singer John Howle said the rodeo is a great way to get the local community out and enjoy the fun.

“We had a great show with the band here, a ton of people showing up, proud to be a part of this. It’s good to see Heflin growing, Cleburne County. I see everybody from all over the county here,” Howle said.

Dustin Hunt brought his family from Vigo because he said it would be his wife’s and his daughter’s first rodeo.

“We’ve come down here, my wife has never been to the rodeo ... she’s from Florida and has never experienced anything like this,” Hunt said.

Powered via the rumble of generators, lights atop telescoped poles illuminated the rodeo arena, itself a mixture of soft red dirt and rocks.

After the Cleburne County Fair natural beauty pageant winners were recognized, the rodeo opened with two riders on horseback circling the arena at full speed against a sparkling pyrotechnic display as announcer’s voice boomed over the public address system.

The first event, bareback bronco riding, found riders trying their best to stay on horses who were trying their best to sling them off. The riders’ pained faces were testament to the power of 1,200-pound animals as they jumped and bucked — one unlucky cowboy in lime green chaps was thrown off and took in a faceful of Heflin dirt.

The steer wrestling event was an exercise in finesse as riders transitioned themselves from riding horseback and sliding off at full speed to wrestle and tie up a steer who was running alongside the horse. Only a couple of cowboys had the skill and good fortune to be able to hold their hands up in victory as they walked away from the tied-up and somewhat dazed steer.

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.