The name of June Ates has been used a lot lately as the preparations are made for the new covered arena in East Milton. The lifelong Milton resident will have the new Santa Rosa equestrian center named in her honor.

So who is June Ates and why is she being honored in this way?

The Ates family has been well known in the Santa Rosa County area since the early 1800s. In 1972 June Hodgson became June Ates. She said she was "tickled to death" to move on a farm when she married Jeff, a fifth generation of the family.

“People joked that I married him because he had horses, but I had a horse. I went after him for the truck and trailer,” Ates said jokingly.

Ates was a major supporter of the covered arena, which was approved for construction on Jan. 22.

The honor for Ates isn't just in name. She will be utilizing the center along with others in the community.

Ates was injured in a serious accident nearly 25 years ago. In March of 1988, Ates was helping her husband log wood on their property when a tree landed on her.

“I was hooking (a tree) to the tractor to be pulled out,” she said. “I happened to not be paying attention and it broke my back.”

She was in the hospital and rehab for 2 ½ months.

“I tried to not let it get to me,” she said. “All I could think about (in the hospital) was that I have three small kids and a farm to take care of.”

Now Ates walks with forearm crutches, but it doesn’t slow her down.

“You deal with what you’re dealt and figure out new ways,” she said. “You can always adjust.”

The mother of three said this accident caused her children to grow up, but there are blessings in everything, she said.

“I couldn’t throw the saddle up on a horse so the girls had to learn,” she said. “I was just focused on family.”

Ates’ resilience and her involvement with 4-H, the National Barrel Horse Association and the County Fair led her to encourage the commission to push for the new equestrian center.

Having the arena named in her honor was a complete surprise for Ates, who sunk down in her chair when it was announced at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.

“That was a big shock. It needs to be named after Kyle (Holley), he did all the work,” she said. “I’m flattered and humbled that they think so much of me, but I’m not one to bring attention to myself.

“I’m just super excited about it. It’s going to open up, hopefully, the youth involvement in livestock again,” she said. “I love watching the kids get involved in steer racing and showing. It teaches them so much responsibility.”

Commissioner Bob Cole said the decision to name the arena the June Ates Arena was made because of Ates’ efforts to bring this project to life.

“June Ates, in particular, was one of the people that brought it to my attention that we needed this facility out here,” Cole said. “She’s a positive and encouraging person in everything she does.”