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SMR Cup brings families and friends together

Former Southeast High School sweethearts Cassidy and Brian Jones were there, and their twin baby girls, Cady and Cooper, too.

In addition to being a new dad, Brian Jones is also an old hand as a cowboy. He formerly worked at SMR, but for the past few years has worked at Longino Ranch in Sarasota. Brian is an old hand as a cowboy, but a rookie participant in the SMR Cup on Saturday.

“I just got the opportunity this weekend. I am pretty excited,” he said.

Also present was another sure enough working cowboy, George Lusby, and his wife, Jackie.

George Lusby’s cowboying days may be over. As are his 27 years with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse.

After all, he is 81.

That’s a good age to revel in the sunshine, surrounded by family and old friends. What better way to spend the day than sitting on a hay bale and watching the youngsters in your family compete in the SMR Cup?

Or to bounce Dewey David Parks, his 3-year-old great-grandson, on his knee?

“We’ve been back in these woods chasing cows,” Lusby said, recollecting his years working at the former Reagan Ranch on Upper Manatee Road.

The Lusbys said they liked the shooting and fishing competition, and what they were watching at the moment, the roping contest, all of which mix and match cowboys and polo players.

But maybe more than that, they enjoyed the family aspect of the not-so-deadly-serious competition between unlikely teammates.

Good thing that most of the action was all in good fun and friendship. Because those cattle the teams were trying to rope more often than not slipped the lasso.

Make the score, maybe, 100 points for the cows, 10 points for the cowboys and polo players.

Chris Bales and Renee Strickland were at the SMR Cup, too.

The Myakka women became friends through their mutual love of horses. Strickland is well known for her efforts to market Manatee County beef nationally and internationally. She is comfortable as a cowgirl, but also plays polo.

Bales grew up in Boston, designs silver jewelry, and learned polo at Boston University, of all places.

“I got hooked,” she said of that polo class, even though she didn’t have a horse at the time.

A fourth-generation polo player, Raymond Guest, was there too. He’s building a house near the arena where the roping competition was being held.

The house is “close enough,” he says, “to call fouls from the second story.”

Jack Morris, a member of the Lakewood Ranch High School Class of 2006, was there. He rode and showed horses as a kid. Now he is a groom and a polo player.

Another Lakewood Ranch grad, Paula Scott, Class of 2001, was there as well. She cuts hair now, but she was also a competitor in the roping competition.

I mention these folks because, frankly, I didn’t anticipate what a diverse group they are, and thought you might be a little surprised as well.

The SMR Cup wraps up today with a polo match. Gates open at the Sarasota Polo Club at 10 a.m. Admission is $10.

Here’s what I’d look for: the horse race at 1:45 p.m., during halftime of the polo contest.

SMR master of ceremonies Jason McKendree says that horse race is nothing less than “hair-raising.”

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