Rodeo parade makes me all goosepimply


I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tri-State Rodeo’s C. E. “Eddie” Richards so full as it was Friday night for Alabama. What a tribute to so many. I’m not sure there’s anything more Fort Madison than those who dress in cowboy garb and put on one of the greatest parties in the Midwest.

I was stationed at the Moose Lodge for the parade for reasons known to many, and all the past general chairmen, such as Bob Huffman, Josh Denning, Tony Johnson, Chuck Kempker, Mike Culbertson, Larry Smith, and others I swear to God I don’t know but deserve the same respect, came walking by and I got a little goosepimply.

These guys are part of a fraternity of greatness, and this isn’t sucking up, because these guys have earned something special. It just sat in on me as they walked past me after the parade headed to Faeth’s Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (that’s awesome), as to how much has been accomplished by this committee.

The rodeo is something so special that someone who didn’t grow up here really couldn't comprehend it from an internal perspective.

Connie Graber and Lisa Woods and the Holy Trinity Community and the Fort Madison Key Club and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Fort Madison Police Department, these groups that are regularly integral parts of an event that has transcended economics, politics, and even pandemics can keep something so special a part of a community our size is monumental.

Then you throw in the saddle clubs with beautiful horses, the Shriners, Shoeloose the Clown, Mr. Bailey on a tractor, the Oscar Mayer WienerMobile, and someone actually grilling on the float and throwing out hot dogs wrapped in aluminum foil… bun and all. It’s as Matt Mohrfeld would say -  “Americana”.

My brother and his wife came down again this year, the first time since their kids were little. They're empty nesting and looking for things to do. John and I bet the over/under on how many horses would poop within the lines of the parking spot in front of us.

I had the over at six, he had it at three, and there were five. He won because if you take the over, it’s over. I took over six and he took over three. Really? One more horse couldn’t lift a tail? It’s bad when your excitement turns to seeing horses poop.

I like the smell of Farm-all tractors and John Deeres and Internationals. I like the smell of a Bloody Mary and a pulled pork sandwich and I love hearing Neal Dodd scream “Muuuuusiiiiiiic” as the bands head east past the 700 block of Avenue G. He and his band of retail brethren hold up their yellow “10” signs that have been stored in the basement of Dodd’s Printing & Stationery Inc. for decades.

If you can’t tell by now, I was stationed across the street from Neal, and Matt and Betsy Hayes, and the rest of the riff raff that sits under the canopies outside the Dodd store on G. These folks actually practice a rendition of the ‘Popcorn, peanuts, ooooniooon soup, we want a touchdown, poop-poop-sie doop,” Brady Bunch cheer.

But it’s absolutely wonderful. They work it up so it’s perfectly timed and befitting a 75th anniversary of the Tri-State Rodeo.  Either way, finding my way to the Rodeo and seeing again how exciting it is to watch bareback bronc riders, bull riders, and tie-down ropers is something that reminds me of how wonderful fall is. You can smell the campfires and smell the crispness of the September air.

I love that smell. It probably has something to do with the fact that football is upon us, the Bloodhound team is again 3-0 for the third straight year, Melissa Freesmeier’s Lady Crusaders are AGAIN one of the top teams in the state, and I found a fresh outfit for Skole.

It’s fall baby. Porchstock, Mexican Fiesta, Rodeo, Apple Cider, leaves falling in my damned gutters, yard work. It’s all super comfy.

One of my favorite things about the Grand Rodeo Parade is seeing the kids rushing around for candy. Seeing Kinzlee Heidbreder waiving to the crowd like she’s the best princess ever, which she might be, and the C.E. “Eddie” Richards family taking up an entire float to let Fort Madison know just how special they really are.

I don’t know, s’mores, and grilled hot dogs and hoodies and shorts. It all seems like it could last forever, and it should. But that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Beside the Point, editorial, opinion, Chuck Vandenberg, Pen City Current, fall, parade, Tri-state Rodeo,


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