BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Sometimes you had to look twice. The people that you usually see around town, in whatever setting, looked just a bit different.
In my business you see people in suits, or medical scrubs, or the crimson and black of Bloodhounds sports and the blue and white of Holy Trinity Catholic.
But this past week they were in plaid and I had to do double takes to say “Hello”. I’ve never been any sort of cowboy and I think I owned a cowboy hat once as a kid when it came with the plastic guns and handcuffs all cellophaned in a package that hung from a K-mart peg rack.
The 71st annual Tri-State Rodeo wrapped yesterday with a big crowd – on dry bleachers – complete with the skyfall of Bobby Reid. Due to this Gordon fella sitting over the central plains for about four days, rain kept Reid from his appointed delivery of the American Flag from the skies above C.E. “Eddie” Richards Arena, but Saturday he got the jump. And I got the picture.
The day started with the annual Rodeo Parade that ran for a good two hours, down Avenue G and through historic downtown Fort Madison. I stumbled upon a family from Colorado where two of the youngest were snuggled up under a blanket with cowboy hats on next to the recently added corn stalks along Main Street.
Beck and Jace Dunkins, from Glenwoods, Colo., were visiting with their parents and grandparents Randy and Bev Schiller, who now live in Basalt, Colorado.
Bev and Randy grew up in Fort Madison and wanted to bring their grandchildren back for their first rodeo.
“We used to go to the rodeo every day when we were little kids,” Bev said. “I remember when Fess Parker used to be out here and he would stay and walk the grounds every night.”
She was referring to the Fess Parker, of Davy Crockett fame. For those to young to remember when television was black and white and came in box the size of a cedar chest with the screen the size of today’s microwaves.
Bev said the kids went to the Thursday night rodeo, and even though it was a little wet, they had a magnificent time and may make it annual trek.
Both Jace and Beck said their favorite moment was the family of horses that get introduced at the end of the rodeo.
Talk of the Friday Fort Madison Bloodhounds football game dominated conversations along the sidewalks as the Silver Senior Steppers danced in the street across from??? the Newberry Center waving hand-held flags.
For the first time this year, members of the Cervi Championship Rodeo team and Josh Denning, in his third and final year as General Chairman for the Rodeo, brought a group of younger horses from the Cervi brand, down Main Street leading the parade behind the Honor Guard. It was the first time that had been done at the rodeo. If you weren’t at the Lil’ Spurs Rodeo Monday, you may not have known that.
A ramped up pack of band geeks in front of Dodd Printing & Stationery jumped up and down calling for “MUUUUUSIIIIC!” and waved large yellow score cards with “10”
printed on them as the Bloodhound Marching Band, the Fort Madison Middle School Band, and bands from Quincy and Central Lee moved down the street. It wasn’t hard to see why that group got a band to stop in front of them and put on a show.
“Shoeloose” the clown, a.k.a. Gregg Brockman, tooled around on his retro-scooter high-fiving kids and encircling parade entrants.
Back out at the arena Saturday night reminded me of the Orca shows at the bigger zoos. All the fans in the front two or three rows had plastic tarps or ponchos or raincoats to keep mud flying from racing livestock from getting on their faces. Some just didn’t care. It was a rodeo.
Heather Postin and Sara Bay sat in the front of section 550…in the front with just a couple of Coors Lights on the wall from blocking a few of the splatters. I was shooting the steer wrestling and turned to see these two girls almost begging for more.
Postin said they were from Cuba, Illinois, but her mother is from Fort Madison and was actually working the rodeo. Bay was celebrating her birthday…with mud on her face at the rodeo.
After Master of Ceremony’s Boyd Polhamus, brought the curtain down on the rodeo, crews went to work on getting the stage ready for Jake Owens, the final act of the year. Fans gathered near the grounds entry gates around the stadium to run out into, what can only be described as about six inches of wet mud, to get a good place to “sink” and watch the show.
About 15 minutes after the rodeo ended, the gates opened and people, almost beyond belief, went running onto the grounds kicking up the taupe mess that I think is best described as resembling wet concrete before it hardens. One person, I honestly couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman because they were covered in mud, biffed in the soppy mess on the way out. There’s no way…that wasn’t going to happen.
The crowd stuck around for the most part for the show, but most decided to stay in their seats to listen and watch the popular national country act. I had a Jack and Coke with some family and looked under the brims to say “Hi” to people I really just didn’t recognize.
I’m gonna spend the morning cleaning splatter off the body of my Canon, but here’s some of the fruit of the labor. And “hats off” to the TSR Committee on another action packed year.