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Ludowici rodeo to honor its late founder Saturday
Mr Ciccone angelo and Carmela
Nino Ciccone, center, stands with his youngest daughter, Carmela, and son Angelo. - photo by Photo provided.

It’s been said that cowboys never die, they just ride off into the sunset.

Local cowboy Nino Ciccone, who recently lost his battle with cancer, will make his final ride off into the sunset Saturday during a rodeo at the ranch he founded.

Ciccone’s journey to the N.C. Ranch was anything but routine. He was born in Corvalta, Italy, as the only child to Angela and Dominiqueo Ciccone. He was raised on a farm, and his love for farm animals would be a big factor in him establishing his ranch later in life in Long County.

When he was 14, his parents brought him to America, landing in New York with the goal of providing a better life for their son. At age 18, he was drafted into the Army and served his country for several years, including fighting in the Vietnam War.

In 1979, he was discharged from Fort Stewart, and he saw that Hinesville was growing by leaps and bounds, so he established N.C. Construction and started building houses. Shortly after this, he purchased 70 acres in Long County and built a house for him and his family.

He also established N.C. Ranch and began raising and selling livestock. As the ranch grew, it expanded from cattle and also began to buy, sell, board and train horses.

Ciccone found his passion in this area. He founded the South East Cowboy Association and began to host rodeos at his ranch.

As a rodeo cowboy, Ciccone competed in chute dogging, team roping, calf roping and bull riding. His mastery in the sport was unchallenged by anyone in this area as he went on to win the SECA All-Around Cowboy title 16 years in a row.

But Ciccone didn’t just excel locally. He also exceled in major competitions sponsored by the United States Team Roping Association. He competed all over the nation, winning more than 50 saddles and cash awards in rodeos in North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas.

The rodeo was important to Ciccone, but nothing was more important than his four children, Anthony, Angela, Carmela and Angelo.

Angelo, who is a Long County High School student, said some of the best times he had with his father were when he coached his recreation football team. The teenager added that he and his father loved to watch football games together.

According to Angelo, his father’s favorite football team was the New York Jets, whom he followed when he lived in New York. Angelo also said that no one in Liberty County had a better time or put on a bigger party during the Super Bowl than his father.

His youngest daughter, Carmela, followed in her father’s footsteps, developing a love for animals as well as competing in the rodeo. She, too, competed in several different events, but she said her favorite times came when she and her father traveled together to compete team roping. She said another special time for both her father and her came when she was a senior in high school.

“One thing that was special for both of us was when he escorted me when I was on the homecoming court,” Carmela said. “It was really a wonderful night and a real high we both would never forget.”

Carmela said that in 2012, her father was stricken by kidney cancer. But after surgery, he beat the cancer just like it was a bull that was to be ridden for eight seconds.

But just like the bulls in a rodeo always come back for the next rider, Ciccone’s cancer returned three years later, in May. She said that this time, it hit her father hard, but he fought it and was still riding and roping as recently as July. She said her father always said that no matter what happened to him, the rodeos at the N.C. Ranch must go on.

On Friday and Saturday, the rodeo will go on, but this one will be in honor of the man who started it.

Carmela said that on Saturday, after all of the events are over and the awards are given out, her father’s ashes will be spread in a special ceremony honoring him.

“It’s what he always wanted, and we’re going to do it,” she said. “Though we will be selling tickets to the rodeos on Friday and Saturday, for the ceremony, anybody can come, and we’re inviting anyone who knew or cared about my father to be there.”

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