Campdrafting arrives in Elbert County

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Australian horsemanship event makes U.S. debut in Kiowa

While it’s not exactly the Australian Outback, Elbert County is now the birthplace of the U.S. National Campdraft Association’s first-ever event on American soil.

Competitors from several neighboring states flocked to the Elbert County Fairgrounds Aug. 25 to try their hands — and hooves — at the Australian cowboy sport believed to have evolved from informal competitions among stockmen and drovers in Queensland.

According to Elizabeth Area Chamber of Commerce President Beverly Durant, folks from Down Under are just as excited about the event as the Yanks.

“This is really generating a buzz not only here in the U.S., but in Australia as well,” said Elizabeth Area Chamber of Commerce President, Beverly Durant. “The videos and photos have officially gone viral and we hope to make this an annual event.”

Cowboys and cowgirls from several neighboring states filled the fairgrounds for a chance to compete in the first-ever Australian-style equine event, with several categories based on rider and horsemanship skill.

Campdraft riders on horseback must sort one calf from a herd in the yard or the “camp.” They must then block and turn the beast two or three times to demonstrate control. Finally, the rider must force the calf out of the yard and through a figure-eight course involving a series of sharp right- and left-hand turns in less than 40 seconds.

Sunday’s event followed a three-day workshop held for both judges and riders, which Durant says has created many new friendships, as well as pumped much-needed tourist dollars back into the community.

“This was really a local idea that kinda went global,” explained Durant. “One of our goals was trying to figure out how to make Elbert County a destination location, and one of our committee members said, ‘Let’s bring campdrafting here.’”

That member was Mary Harris, president of the U.S. Campdrafting Association, and owner of Kiowa and Elizabeth Feeds.

Durant credits Harris, along with Angie Calve and Sandi Maldonado, with bringing the event to Kiowa.

“We plan on this event being bigger and better each year,” said Durant.