Ready to Rodeo geared up, but volunteers needed

A little one holds on during the popular mutton-bustin event at the 2019 Lil Spurs Rodeo. After a 2020 cancellation, the rodeo is back on starting Saturday with Ready-to-Rodeo events each day before the professional rodeo kicks off Wednesday.

Registrations on track, but committees need volunteers to help with week leading up to Wednesday


FORT MADISON – With the Tri-State Rodeo’s activities set to begin in just 10 days, officials say this could be the biggest year ever.

With the Rodeo cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID Pandemic, the committee has rolled right into the 2021 rodeo week with a full head of steam.

Pre-Rodeo Chairman Bobby Holtkamp said all the Ready to Rodeo events will include the traditional, successful events that have brought people in from all over Missouri, Illinois, and the Hawkeye state for decades.

Special Kids Rodeo – 10 a.m. Saturday Sept. 4, – Rodeo Arena

One of them most treasured events is the Special Kids Rodeo. Registration is currently ongoing for kids and adults with special needs. Chairwoman Lisa Wood has been an integral part of the event from it’s inception 20 years ago when 13 kids participated – to drawing as many has 350 kids with special needs to the rodeo grounds.

She has chaired the event for the past 18 years and said the pandemic is still having an impact on registrations, but kids continue to sign up daily.

Pre-registration for the event is over, but participants can register Saturday Sept. 4 the day of the event starting at 8:30 a.m. at the rodeo grounds. Anyone wishing to volunteer can show up Saturday by 9:30 a.m to help.

Special Kids’ Rodeo Chairman Lisa Wood leads Jinni Hanson, of Bentonsport, Iowa, around the stickhorse barrel racing course Saturday morning in the sprinkles at C.E. “Eddie” Richards Arena. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

“Registration is a little bit slower this year. Every year we send out entry forms in the mail. But with the two-year lull a lot of clientele have moved and that’s part of the problem,” Wood said Tuesday. “The scare of COVID is still a part of the problem, but we are close to 100 pre-entries already and I get more every day.”

Holtkamp said the Rodeo has a liaison who makes sure the Rodeo is working in conjunction with the guidance and recommendations of the Lee County Health Department.

“(Rodeo Chairman) Tony (Johnson) brought in Matt Horn, who been assisting with entertainment to help with all of that. His job is COVID control. He’s the one that will make sure we have everything in line to meet Lee County Health Department needs and are meeting all their protocols for a safe event,” Holtkamp said.

“We want to be on the same team as them and we’ll do everything to follow their recommendations.”

Wood said there are few new twists to the Special Kids Rodeo this year with cowboy hats and t-shirts for prizes and a hippity-hop style barrel race instead of the regular stick-horse barrel races.

But she said it’s seeing the kids enjoy the rides on the horses that keeps her coming back every year.

“This is an amazing event. I have a special needs child and I know when I see those kids get up on the horses and their bodies just soften and they are totally relaxed… that just melts my heart,” she said.

Those in wheelchairs can even ride the live horses with special double saddles that allow people to ride with them, while people walk on the side to make sure the kids feel comfortable and safe.

She said for those that aren’t comfortable there is a glide horse that allows them to get the feel of riding a horse without having to get on. There is also a mechanical bull, “Casey” that kids can ride that day as well.

The event usually runs from 10 a.m. to about 1 p.m. with all families, volunteers and participants getting a free lunch following the event.

She said if one thing is needed it’s additional volunteers to help mentor the participants to each event.

“The thing that we need to get out is we really need volunteers .I’m afraid it’s going to be a really big year because people are ready to get out. We need mentors to take kids around each year and each event needs to be manned,” Wood said.

Holtkamp also said securing volunteers has been slower than in the past.

“We’ve had a little bit of a challenge getting some volunteers, but some of the groups have come through and we’ve seen some new people sign up. All in all, I can’t complain too much,” he said.

Lil’ Spurs Rodeo – 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 6, Rodeo Arena

Scott Meller, the chairman of the Lil’ Spurs Rodeo said the registrations for that event are coming in at strong levels. He said the mutton-bustin event is already maxed out for the Monday Sept. 6 Labor Day event. The rodeo gets underway at 10 a.m.

All participants and families are required to have a Tri-State Rodeo button to attend. Those are available at multiple businesses in Lee County and the day of the event. Registration check-in starts at 8 a.m. on the north end of the rodeo grounds.

A competitor in one of the Lil Spurs events holds on for a ride during the 2019 event. The rodeo was completely canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Ready to Rodeo events kick off on Saturday, Sept. 4 at the Tri-State Rodeo grounds on Saturday.

“Registration is going really well and we’re actually doing okay with volunteers,” Meller said. “We usually have a team of four or five that lead those efforts and they have volunteer staff under them.”

The Lil’ Spurs Rodeo will have the same traditional format as in the past. Meller said each year there is always consideration of changes, but sometimes you don’t fix what isn’t broken.

“It’s a very special event just as it is,” he said.

Lil Miss Rodeo and All Around Cowboy – 6:30 p.m. Monday Sept. 6, Rodeo Arena

Committee chairwoman Trishia Eaves-Fedler said the year away seems to have made people miss the event.

“We’ve got a larger group of participants than even I thought we’d have,” she said. “We’ve got 14 girls and seven boys participating

She said there is plenty of room in the stands to spread out for the events and the talent portion should be some of the best ever.

“We’ve got some great kids and some great talent, and some of these you are just not going to want to miss,” she said.

This year’s pageant takes place at 6:30 p.m. on the south side of the rodeo arena. Canisters are still out in the community for donations to each contestant. The kids are judged on attire, stage presence and personality. The donations are only used in the event of a tie and the judges don’t know how much each contestant raised.

Eaves-Fedler said she hasn’t heard any negative feedback with the pandemic still looming with the Delta variant of the virus. She said participants are free to wear a mask if they choose, but it is not required during the outdoor event.

Holtkamp said the Ready to Rodeo schedule is very similar to previous years.

“Everyone knows when they get chili. That’s what they go by…we don’t mess with chili night,” he said.

That event is the sole Sunday event and runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Fareway is providing the food for chili night and they are also sponsoring the pancake breakfast Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Hy-Vee is again providing the pulled pork dinner Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Pee-Wee Barrell racing takes place on Tuesday night at the Saddle Club Arena. Registration starts at 4:30 with the action kicking off at 5:30 p.m. The top 8 finishers will advance to ride during Thursday and Friday night’s rodeo. Registration, and a full list of Tri-State Rodeo events is available at

The professional rodeo action kicks off with the CINCH Chute-Out starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

2 thoughts on “Ready to Rodeo geared up, but volunteers needed

  1. Be aware that EVERY animal welfare organization in North America condemns rodeo due to its inherent cruelty. Rodeo is not a “sport”–it’s a macho exercise in DOMINATION, having almost nothing to do with either agriculture or life on a working ranch. The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales) outlawed rodeos back in 1934. Germany and the Netherlands have done so since. Can the U.S. be far behind?

    See this link to a recent, prize winning rodeo documentary short, “BUCKING TRADITION” (also available on YouTube). Good teaching tool for Humane Educators, politicos and the general public:

    “Mutton busting”–in which very young children–often in tears–are coerced into riding terrified sheep, dangerous for all concerned. And banned throughout all of New Zealand, at the behest of the NZ Veterinary Association, which deemed the sheep “not built to carry the weight.” Likely only a matter of time before some kid gets paralyzed or gets a sheep’s hoof in the eye. Plus the very real dangers of E. coli infection (Google “Bubba Kirby – mutton busting Texas).

  2. Your article is interesting, but you are ill informed about the rodeo and the stock in the rodeo. I have been involved with almost every aspect of the sport. The horses and bulls are actually bred to buck. Talk to any stock contractor and you will learn the animals are fed very well. They are required to buck for 8 seconds in a 24 hour day. Yes, they get fed, watered and vet care when needed and work for 8 seconds and not every day, I would say that is a pretty good life. Get the facts before you condemn the oldest sport in the USA. I can give you the name of 3 or 4 stock contractors that would be glad to enlighten you with the facts. Have a great day.

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