The 18th Annual Tri-State Special Kids Rodeo in Fort Madison on Saturday drew more than 200 participants despite humid conditions and the occasional rain shower. The children and adults in attendance were able to ride horses, take a trolley ride, and experience barrel racing and calf roping.
Lisa Wood chaired the event this year. She described it as the official kick-off of the Tri-State Rodeo, which runs through September 9 in Fort Madison.
Wood said the Special Kids Rodeo is open to anyone with a physical or mental disability. She said more than 200 volunteers helped run the event this year.
“It’s an amazing thing to me and it means so much to me because of my daughter,” said Wood. “We are a rodeo family ourselves and to see that these children and adults just love it and to see the smiles on their faces.”
Wood’s daughter, Kelly, took part in many of the events, telling her mom that her favorites were the trolley rides, the barrel racing, and the horseback rides. Lisa Wood said they make sure to offer the events to anyone, which is why so many volunteers are necessary.
Wood said the event debuted in 2000. She said special needs rodeos were becoming more common at the time during high school rodeo events. A resident asked if one could be added during the Tri-State Rodeo and the organizing committee agreed.
Wood said the first couple years, there were fewer than 25 participants. She said at its peak, the Tri-State Special Kids Rodeo had more than 300 in attendance.
One of this year’s participants was Layla Nye, who was with her mother, Jenny. Jenny said this was Layla’s second year at the event. She said it’s great to have this opportunity available in southeast Iowa.
“Because there’s not a whole lot of opportunities around here for adults and kids with special needs,” said Jenny Nye. “So hosting this event means a lot to our families here and the community coming together. It’s just amazing they can do this for us.”