All the T’s may not be crossed or I’s dotted, but the Lea County Special Rodeo will happen this year.
More than 33 years after the first Special Rodeo was held during the annual Lea County Fair and Rodeo, the committee that organizes the event dissolved, leaving no one left to organize the decades-long tradition.
Until the Lea County Fair and Rodeo board decided to take over the responsibility and even reached out to get some help.
“Starting this year it is all going to the Fair and Rodeo Board and because I was on the Special Rodeo committee they asked me to help out with it,” Shona Able, a former member of the Special Rodeo board said. “That is where we are at here.”
Able told the News-Sun last week that details of the event are still unknown due to her only stepping in a few weeks ago but guaranteed the event will go on.
“It’s very gray,” Able said. “I know that everyone who’s involved in the Special Rodeo committee and the fair and rodeo committee doesn’t want to see this not happen. That’s why the Lea County Fair and Rodeo wants to keep that tradition going.”
Every year, until now, the Special Rodeo Committee hosted a day for special needs children to participate in the fair and rodeo and carnival. During an allocated time, the kids are able to ride all the carnival rides. They also get to participate in the fair and rodeo parade.
Also, in a more controlled environment the children get to experience what it’s like to be a rodeo cowboy, from riding a bucking bull to roping a calf. All with the assistance of some professional cowboys and other volunteers.
“They get to put a rope in their hand and they get to rope a dummy,” Able said. “They get to get on a horse and they get to do barrel and poles and flags, just like the big kids do in a rodeo. They get to experience things they only get to do once a year.”
Lea County Commissioner Dean Jackson’s told the News-Sun from a volunteer perspective, the Special Rodeo is a humbling event.
“It is a life-changing event,” Jackson said. “You see those kids and their faces light up and they get to be a cowboy. Like I said it is a life-changing event. You will never be the same.”
Jackson said it’s not only an event that touches the volunteers but the children really enjoy it.
“Most of us don’t have special needs kids, we don’t know anything about it,” Jackson said. “You help these kids rope, whether they catch or not, they turn and look at you and that smile and those eyes…it’s humbling.”
Volunteers, and/or the cowboys, are matched with a special needs child and they work with that child so they can “be a cowboy or cowgirl for a day.”
Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association participants, local ranchers, and the PRCA clowns have all been known to volunteer.
“Anybody can come in and be a cowboy for a student,” Able said. “The children of Lea County, the special needs kids, there is a lot of them that don’t go to a rodeo. They have never seen a horse. We also have a petting zoo so they get to see rabbits and chickens and pigs and goats and sheep. They don’t get to see that stuff. To me, that’s part of Lea County.”
Able told the News-Sun the Lea County Fair and Rodeo participants are like a family, which both her children participated in the event. She added the kids in the special rodeo should get to experience being a part of that family.
Able was unsure of how many children usually participate, how kids will sign up, or how to volunteer time or money, due to her not participating in the planning portion but always getting the horses and the rodeo portion of the event.
However, on April 27 the Lea County Fair Board is scheduled to meet and hammer out those details, according to Able.
“I’m going to have to do something I have never done,” Able said. “I am going to have to look at registration.”
Able was also unaware of what adjustments the fair board will need to make due to COVID-19 or the expectations of the board.
“I don’t have any specifics how the rodeo is going to run this year,” Able said. “It’s going to have to be brought before the fair board and look at the ideas and kinda what our vision is and put it together.”