Despite the chill in the evening air, Abilene High School students gathered at the football stadium Friday to take part in the Cowboy Night — the culmination of the high school’s Cowboy Joe competition.
At the end of the night, Miqueas Mazo had been crowned AHS’s 2021 Cowboy Joe winner.
He accepted his trophy and his bright orange cowboy hat with a smile.
“It was so fun making new friends, getting to know all the lower classmen,” Mazo said, addressing his classmates in an impromptu speech after winning.
Cowboy Joe is a long tradition that started at AHS in the late 1940s in the hopes of selling more yearbooks.
AHS yearbook editor Lindsey Buechman, who helped organize the event, elaborated on why it was held outdoors.
“Tonight we decided we were going to have a cowboy game night because last year when we had a lot more feedback — and positive feedback — from that, rather than just having a dance ,” she said. “So we just decided we were going to utilize the video board and the field and the lights and have it here and have a late night.”
The game night was the final in a series of Cowboy Joe-related events, including skits which took place during the school day Friday.
“Tonight is just a game night before the Cowboy Joe is actually announced for the year just to get everybody together for one more time this week,” Buechman said.
AHS journalism instructor Charity Bathurst said the event was initially started to boost yearbook sales. Students could cast votes for Cowboy Joe candidates by purchasing a copy of the yearbook.
These days, students don’t have to purchase a yearbook to take part in the competition, though they can gain more votes for their chosen Cowboy Joe candidate if they buy one.
It’s more about bringing the students together for a night of fun.
“I’m just proud of all the candidates for being great sports and doing a great job connecting with the student body,” Bathurst said.
Last year, there were restrictions due to COVID-19, so Bathurst said it was a pleasure to see the students out enjoying themselves.
“I just love seeing the kids enjoy their community — their friends,” she said. “We didn’t know for sure that we were going to be out here, but it has turned out to be a great night — a little chilly, but nothing we can’t survive. So just being able to be outside is something they’ve been looking forward to. I love seeing it — I love seeing the kids do something fun.”