BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Mondays of Ready-to-Rodeo Week are typically a day set aside for the kids and for the first time in two years, the kids again took center stage at C.E. “Eddie” Richards Arena on the Tri-State Rodeo grounds.
With 2020 being canceled due to the pandemic, fans and family loaded the north side of the rodeo arena Monday to watch kids of all ages test their skills with livestock and barrels.
Monday night, toward the end of the Hy-Vee pork dinner, 21 kids dressed up and did their best to earn the title of Lil’ Miss Rodeo and All-Around Cowboy.
At the end of the night it was Jansen Swan, a 7-year-old from Montrose and Mia Simmons, a 5-year-old from Donnellson who walked away with the annual titles of top kid cowboy and cowgirl.
Swan is the son of Cody and Keegan Swan, while Simmons is the daughter of Justine Johnson and Jake Simmons.
Swan belted out a shortened version of a song about a six pack, of Coca-Cola, and Simmons did a little song and air guitar complete with guitar to take the titles.
The day started with the Lil Spurs Rodeo where kids from ages 3 to 14 rode calves, sheep and stick horses, and even tried to chase down some greased pigs to the delight of a full VIP section that even spilled out into the regular grandstands.
Lil Spurs Chairman Scott Meller said some logistical changes were the only hiccup to the day, but the volunteers pulled off another great rodeo for the kids.
“It went very well, I think. It was a little warm, but it seemed everyone enjoyed their day. We had a lot of volunteers again and that always helps,” he said.
“The volunteers are literally the biggest part of this aside from the kids, and there are so many moving parts that people don’t get to see down below with trying to get livestock and kids ready and positioned.”
The Connection Bank crows nest where announcing and judging for all rodeo events takes place is typically on the northwest corner of the arena, but that was moved at the last minute to above the east grandstands, so volunteers had to adjust to where they were relaying event information and chute action, but Meller said it was a small adjustment to an otherwise successful day.
“It was a different vantage point and communication was a bit different this time because we’re not in line of sight anymore so we may have to tinker with that a bit,” he said.
Attendance was back to pre-pandemic levels at both events and the evening dinner.
“I don’t have any real numbers yet. I think some people left a bit early because of the heat and sitting in the sun for several hours, but I think it was another successful Lil Spurs,” Meller said.
Trish Eaves-Fedler said she was very happy with the crowd, the number of participants in the pageant, and the great support of the community.
“This was an amazing night. The crowd was great, the kids were excited. This is probably the most money we’ve raised with the canisters in all the time I’ve been involved. I think we’re all so excited to be here and be back at it.”
The money raised from the canisters goes to help defray costs associated with the Miss Rodeo pageant and the year long commitment of the winners of that pageant.
Eaves-Fedler said the number of participants in the pageant was higher than it’s been in the past several years and the show moved easily.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had that number of kids. The number of girls is always a little higher, but I think the most I’ve seen since I’ve been here is 28, so 21 is a great number and we got done in great time.”
The 1st Runner-Up for Lil Miss Rodeo was Ali Bergmann, 5, the daughter of Beau and Megan Bergmanm of Mt. Pleasant. The 2nd Runner-Up was Mallory Weirather, 7, daughter of Jordan and Taylor Weirather of Montrose.
First Runner-Up for All-Around Cowboy was Lane Palmer, 6, son of Cory and Melissa Palmer of Keokuk. Miles Eastin, 7, son of Chi Eastin of Fort Madison was the 2nd runner-up.