Jessie James Hamby Memorial set for this weekend

Get ready for the Greatest Show On Dirt.

This weekend marks the Sixth Annual Jessie James Hamby Memorial, a professional bull riding event sanctioned by the American Bull Riders Tour. The event will take pace at Robertson Farm in Marietta, with competition starting at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30. Gates open at 6 p.m.

The event will also feature an open barrel racing segment.

Local barrel racer Elly Whitesell is among those expected to compete at this weekend's Jessie James Hamby Memorial in Marietta. (Photo Provided)

According to producer Eric Terrell, the Memorial is a way to honor his grandfather, Jessie James Hamby.

“He raised me,” Terrell said. “I spent a lot of time with him growing up, and he’s who taught me to farm, to ranch, and to ride. He was just an all-around hand. He passed away five years ago this July, and this is just our way of honoring him.”

The sanctioned bull riding event draws an average of 40 riders a night, Terrell said.

“We have some from New York, some from Oklahoma, just all over,” he said. “Sometimes we get competitors from the PBR touring pro level. This is a true annual event, and people know they can count on us to run. Even with Covid, we didn’t skip. That year, we actually had 63 riders each night. Everybody was shut down, and we gave them somewhere to go.”

The riders might come from all over, but the bulls are all local. They’re from the world-renowned Ken Treadway Rodeo Company in Laurens.

The barrel racers are local, too.

“We do have a good many locals,” Terrell said. “Some are from Pumpkintown, Travelers Rest, Marietta, Blue Ridge, and then we’ve got some from out of state. It’s a good money event for them.”

One of those locals is Elly Whitesell. She said she’s been riding all her life.

“I think they put me on a horse when they brought me home from the hospital,” she said with a laugh. By the time I was four, I was racing, roping, and goat tying. It’s just always been a part of my life.”

The local aspect of the Memorial is one thing that appeals to Whitesell.

“It’s convenient for us,” she said. “We don’t live far from the arena. One time we picked up a horse and didn’t have room on the trailer to bring her back. So we just led her home.”

Whitesell also enjoys the atmosphere around the event.

“I enjoy that it’s family-oriented,” she said. “I like that it’s Christ-centered. It’s a great atmosphere. That and the competition is what keeps me going.”

Tickets for the event are $15 for ages 13 and up, and $10 for kids 5-12. Children under 5 are admitted free.

Terrell said he’s excited for the event and wants to see a big crowd.

“Last year we had to turn people away,” he said. “We drew about 1,500 on the first night. We’re hoping to see that again.”