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story.lead_photo.caption A competitor prepares to lasso a running calf Monday during the Johnny Laughlin Memorial Breakaway & Calf Roping Competition in Eugene. About 150 people competed in four rodeo events during the event. Johnny Laughlin was a local cattleman who died in early July. Photo by Nicole Roberts / California Democrat.

Johnny Laughlin was known as a big-hearted cattleman whose goal was to grow rodeo, from teaching youths the sport to providing cattle to rodeos across the state.

On Labor Day, the local rodeo community remembered Johnny Laughlin in the only way they knew how — a memorial rodeo competition.

About 150 people participated Monday in the Johnny Laughlin Memorial Breakaway & Calf Roping Competition at Kempker Arena in Eugene.

After Johnny Laughlin died in late July, Jeremy and Megan Kempker put together the competition in his honor.

"Jeremy and Johnny were super close and we always appreciated how Johnny wanted to help out the kids, so it really inspired him to do this in Johnny's honor," Megan Kempker said.

All the proceeds from the competition will go toward a scholarship to help a high school senior continue rodeoing while in college, said Josie Spurgin, Johnny Laughlin's daughter.

"Education was a big thing for him so I can't think of a better way to honor him than to give someone some scholarship money to go rodeo and go to college and pursue their education," she said.

The competition had four events: High school breakaway, high school calf roping, open breakaway and open calf roping.

Breakaway roping is a timed event where a horse rider will attempt to lasso a running calf. The rope is tied to a string on the saddle. Once the rope is around the calf's neck, the rider will signal for the horse to stop suddenly, allowing the string to break and signaling the end of the run.

Calf roping is a timed event where a horse rider will attempt to catch a calf by throwing a looped rope around its neck, dismounting the horse and restraining the calf by tying three of its legs together.

Johnny Laughlin and Barb Laughlin, Josie's mom, operated Show-Me Timed Event Challenge at their house for 16 years, where youths could compete in local rodeos.

"Johnny was a big part of trying to grow our sport and he did everything under his power to make sure of that, starting from the little kids up to guys who were on their way out," said Luke Shafer, president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association. "He made sure every cowboy had an opportunity to get his start somewhere along the line. We sure miss him."

Many former Show-Me Timed Event Challenge competitors, like Eldon resident Abigail Pike, 17, competed Monday.

"I grew up knowing them and I wanted to come out today to rope and show our support for Johnny and Barb and the whole Laughlin family," said Pike, who is also Miss Missouri High School Rodeo.

When Eldon resident Gus Albertson, 16, learned the Kempkers were hosting the memorial rodeo, he knew he had to compete.

"I used to always go to his (Johnny's) rodeos and it's where I grew up rodeoing," Albertson said. "It's a great, great benefit."

Not only was the event a moment to remember Johnny Laughlin, Spurgin and Barb Laughlin said, it was also time for the rodeo community to come together and do what they love.

"This is a way we can all get together and have fun," Barb Laughlin said. "I know for my kids and a lot of us here, the friendships they made doing this are the friendships they still have today."

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