BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Scott Fedler can remember riding a sheep out a chute and onto the soft dirt of C.E. “Eddie” Richards Arena when he was a boy. Now, as chairman of the Tri-State Rodeo’s wildly popular Lil’ Spurs Rodeo, he gets to keep reliving the event through other area children.
But Fedler, standing at about 6′-6″, a far cry from the eight-year-old boy laying across the back of a running sheep decades ago, says the event is totally about the kids.
“Not just Lil’ Spurs, but the Special Kids Rodeo too. It’s a scenario where you see the community pull together for the pre-rodeo for all the families and kids that may not have the ability to do those things themselves,” he said. “You see the community pull together for that, and that to me is rodeo – aside from the actual rodeo”
A rain shower that rolled in just after the day’s events got rolling sent a lot of people looking for cover, and Fedler said that may have hurt attendance just a little.
“It was a great day overall,” Fedler said. “For mutton bustin’ we’re always a full unit and that’s to be expected. For calf riders we were probably about an average year. The rain kinda killed off people that would normally come, both spectators and participants.”
He said it packed the house before the short-lived rain entered the area, and then the humidity sent in. But neither the precipitation or the lingering effects in the 88 degree heat dampened the spirits of area children falling off sheep and getting bucked off calves, pulling ties off goat-tails, riding stick horses around barrels, or chasing greased pigs.
Fedler said the Lil’ Spurs committee and the radio are using a hashtag #tsrfamilytradition to corral marketing for events associated with Tri-State Rodeo.
The online registration caused a few problems for the committee. Fedler said registrations for Lil’ Spurs events are made through the rodeo’s online site at www.tristaterodeo.org and this year things were a little more troublesome than previous years, but the committee is looking hard at rectifying those issues for next year’s events.
He said the volunteers helped pull everything together to put on another great event for 2018.
“This was one of the smoothest shows we’ve put on in a while,” he said. “We had outstanding participation for kids and from the volunteers,” Fedler said. “You cannot thank enough these volunteers and our sponsors. There are a lot of people behind the scenes that are just there and there are just not enough thank yous for everyone involved.”
Lil’ Spurs has been a jumping off point for many rodeo participants at many levels. Fedler said it’s not uncommon for individuals who participate by riding a sheep or a calf, to be seen at other events as they get older, including riding in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
“We’ve had kids that start in Lil’ Spurs and come back as part of the PRCA,” Fedler said. “It’s our 26th year and we’ve seen riders from the time they start until the professional circuit.
We’ve seen them have their first ride here on a lamb, come back as part of the high school rodeo, win it, and then go to the PRCA and come back here as a part of that and ride.”
Fedler said all the facets of the rodeo are a result of community efforts and he’s happy to help continue to bring this to the area.
“This is just about having the kids here, the families here, and the volunteers, and then getting everyone into the arena for the rodeo itself,” Fedler said. “And it’s not just the Lil’ Spurs, it’s the Special Kids…it’s the faces in the arena and the rodeo itself. This brings you back to the reality that it’s community that kicks in and gets out here to make sure the kids have fun.”
Monday night wrapped up with the annual Lil’ Miss Rodeo and All-Around Cowboy contest on the south end of the grand stand.
Holden Pezley, 6, son of Travis & Katelyn Pezley of Montrose was named All-Around Cowboy out of a field of three, while Cheyanna Turbin, 6, daughter of Jason & Tiffany Turpin of Columbia, Mo was named Lil’ Miss Rodeo.
After Tuesday night’s Pee Wee Barrel Races, full professional rodeo action kicks off in a big way Wednesday night with the all-in Cinch Shootout where cowboys, on an invitation-only basis, come to the arena to battle for more than $100,000 in prize money, one of the highest purses in the midwest.