Iowa's Championship Rodeo in Sidney, Iowa, was
the highlight of my great-grandmother's summer.
After a busy summer season of gardening, canning,
raising chickens and baby sitting grandchildren,
the Rodeo became her get-away -- her escape from
everyday, mundane chores and worries. She went every
year and every day, if possible, from the Rodeo's
beginning in the late 1920's until the year of her
death in 1955. She lived the Rodeo and all the excitement
of seeing the cowboys and the bull riding. Never
did she find it boring because she met friends and
neighbors, saw great entertainment, ate someone
else's cooking and played BINGO!
For her, the best part of the whole rodeo scene
happened on the Mid-Way where carnival vendors were
playing deafening music and the bright lights beckoned.
Somewhere near the middle of the throngs of people,
the screaming, spinning Ferris wheel and the laughter
of the children on the merry-go-round, there was
a large tent with wood planks set up as tables and
benches around the perimeter. The cry of "BINGO"
could be heard loud and clear. Grandma gravitated
towards this spot much as a moth to a flame. Yellowish
lights around the roof of the tent kept the prizes
displayed in the center sparking and twinkling.
She sat here for hours until Grandpa came to take
her and her prizes back to their farm near Thurman,
Iowa. Her thrill must surely have been the opportunity
to shout "BINGO and then choose a pretty "carnival"
dish. She obviously won many times over the years
as her cupboards were full of dishes known as "carnival"
glass. Today, some fifty years after Grandma died,
these dishes are treasured by family members and
will be passed on to her great-great-great granddaughters.
So every year when the Rodeo week rolls around,
I can picture her scooting over on her bench to
make room for me beside her and giving me a quarter
to play along. I don't think I ever won anything
but the sound of her laughter and the feel of her
hugs linger today.
I've no doubt the Rodeo brings forth countless thoughts
to many folks. My memory of my bingo playing great-Grandma
is but one of the thousands out there. Such experiences
are often housed in museums of brick and mortar
as well as museums in our minds.
This summer, when we go to the Rodeo, we will be
able to see the early construction of the new Rodeo
Museum, which the Historical Society, Rodeo Board,
Auxiliary, and many people who love the event, are
so excited about. This museum will allow us non-cowboys
and cowgirls to visit our rodeo remembrances. It
will honor all who have made Sidney the Rodeo Town
it is. You can own a piece of history with your
donation to this exciting project. Soon Rodeos of
the past will be relived year 'round not just at