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Spotlight: The Women Who Have Shaped the Silver Spurs Rodeo

Horsemanship is on display in the 144th year of the Silver Spurs Rodeo. Photo: Marylou Salon @rylouma
Horsemanship is on display in the 144th year of the Silver Spurs Rodeo. Photo: Marylou Salon @rylouma

Ashley Fluke is the coordinator of the Silver Spurs Rodeo Parade and director of the Quadrille-a square dance on horseback at the Silver Spurs Rodeo.

It's in her blood.

Fluke is the third generation of women in her family to be part of the more than 75-year-old rodeo in Osceola County that claims to be the largest east of the Mississippi.

Her grandparents Doc and Petie Partin were founding members of the rodeo in the 1940s. With other ranching families they invented the Quadrille and held the first rodeo in 1944.

Her mother continued this tradition-working the concession stands at the Silver Spurs Arena. A portion of all profits go to local charities like Habitat for Humanity, Horses for Heroes and the Education Foundation of Osceola County.

90.7 WMFE spoke with Fluke before this year's 144th rodeo-about continuing this long family tradition of horsemanship and service.

Here are excerpts from our conversation with Fluke:

On how the women in her family have been part of the Silver Spurs Rodeo:

"My grandmother and grandfather both were beginning members of the Quadrille team, that's another reason I'm very passionate about it. But she also spent many, many countless years in the concession stands. Which then my mother took on, and after I finish Quadrille I will march my way up to concessions and be there too."

On how women continue to redefine their role as leaders and competitors in the rodeo:

"Women play a huge role in the rodeo today. If you go look at everyone helping me today, you'll see a lot of ladies take on leadership roles. We've had a few women be our Big Boss which is like our president of the organization and that's a huge leadership responsibility. We have a lot of chair women who lead committees and also new initiatives for the organization. We've grown and we've changed with the growth of the community."

On how women have started to compete with the men in and out of the arena-in the field of agriculture:

"You do see women compete in every single event. Myself I grew up when I did high school rodeo, I did team roping, breakaway roping which is similar to calf roping. So, branching out into those events. And, yes, you'll see women in rough stock because women are tough. I grew up ranching and I spent my summers working on the ranch. And it wasn't just play around and have fun-sure it was fun. But they taught us how to work hard."

On what the tradition of the Silver Spurs Rodeo means to her family and the wider Osceola community:

"You know our community has changed significantly in the years of me growing up here. I was born and raised in Osceola County. And to look through the stands of the people, the smiles on their faces, the diversity of the people that come and enjoy the same sport from so many different backgrounds. I think that's really special. The fact that this organization can put on such a big show and have such a presence but behind it all it's all volunteers."

If you'd like to listen to this week's Spotlight, click on the clip above.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.