ProRodeo Sports News - June 26, 2020


& Cowboy Hat Gown

Photo courtesy Burgess Ovitt The 2020 graduating class of Hadley-Luzerne Junior/Senior High School had its commencement at Painted Pony Championship Rodeo.

Painted Pony provides facility for school graduation

BY MATT NABER B ull rider Dustin LaFountain is the first boy in his family to graduate high school, but for a while it seemed unlikely the Lake Luzerne, N.Y., cowboy would get to celebrate the milestone with a graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo restricted high school graduations to outdoor venues and limited the number of attendees, which is fine for schools with bleachers or stadiums, but it didn’t help LaFountain and the rest of Hadley-Luzerne Junior/Senior High School’s 2020 class. The school has no athletic field with bleachers that could be used for their graduation ceremony. “We’re very rural,” said principal Burgess Ovitt, a PRCAmember. “Schools close to us have stadiums and bleachers, but we don’t. We have the soccer field with no covering.” The Hadley-Luzerne Junior/Senior High School district covers 96 square miles of upstate New York and has 45 students in the 2020 graduating class. Four miles northeast of the school is Painted Pony Championship Rodeo, where Ovitt competes in steer wrestling and is friends with owners Shawn and Shana Graham. The Grahams jumped at the opportunity to help when Ovitt brought up the idea in May.

“He (Ovitt) said, ‘I have an idea,’ and I blurted out, ‘Oh my god, yes,’” Shana said. “It was perfect timing; I’d been thinking about what we could do to help.” The arena’s grandstands can hold 2,650 people, making it possible for the graduates’ families to maintain a safe distance from each other during the graduation ceremony. The gesture’s significance is amplified for LaFountain, a third- generation New York cowboy. His grandpa Elton was a PRCAmember who competed in multiple rodeo events, and Dustin’s dad, Billy, was also involved in rodeo. “Just to know that where I’d get to make that 8-second ride at is where I get to go for my graduation diploma, it means a lot to my parents,” LaFountain said. “I talked to my mom about it, and she can’t even talk right now, she’s crying.” For the LaFountains, this is more than just a high school graduation ceremony. “Personally, I’m the first LaFountain boy to graduate from high school, so it means everything,” LaFountain said. “Now I’m there for every rodeo I can hit at 8 p.m., ready to ride.” LaFountain started mutton bustin’ at 3 and climbed the ladder to bull riding. He’s also worked at the Painted Pony arena. “I’ve literally grown up at Painted Pony,” LaFountain said.

ProRodeo Sports News 6/26/2020


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