A Salute to Rodeo Volunteers
by Lona Lewis
The first week in August in Fremont
County is Rodeo time. The one commonality for every
performance since the beginning is it happened and
continues to happen because of volunteers.
Iowa's Championship Rodeo began in 1923
when Henry and Earl Tackett offered to ride bucking
broncos to entertain the crowd at an Old Soldier's
Reunion. "Mean" horses from around the area
were volunteered by local residents. The town of Sidney
volunteered the use of a park with a small grandstand.
Henry and Earl furnished the amusement and earned
the first prize money of the Rodeo-$50.
The show was popular and the American
Legion decided to continue it. By 1925 the show had
outgrown its makeshift arena. It was time to get more
and closer seating for the spectators, more chutes
and a fenced arena for the action.
The American Legion was starting with
no information on how to build a facility for a Rodeo.
Another issue was lack of money plus new facilities
needed to be ready for the 1926 Rodeo. The answer
began a tradition that is still the trademark of the
Rodeo - volunteers and donated items. Fence posts
were acquired by a gift of telephone poles from a
mutual telephone company that had gone out of business.
The legion post members went through the countryside
and dug up the poles and hauled them to the rodeo
grounds. The only cost was severe cases of poison
ivy contracted by some of the members. Many other
improvements were made at little cost and a lot of
Each year brought larger crowds to the
Rodeo. In 1928, the Legion decided that the event
had to operate as a business and in 1929 passed Articles
of Incorporation. The Corporation did all the business
without any paid staff. First a committee of three
men acting as the financial control board organized
the volunteers and Rodeo. Later the committee became
30 men. This large committee proved unworkable so
in 1946, it was changed to a seven-man board titled
"Rodeo-Board" that still operates today.
Volunteers have built grandstands, enlarging
them throughout the years. They secured big name Rodeo
contestants and star performers and grew the event
into Iowa's Championship Rodeo recognized nationwide.
They also took the tickets, cleaned the stands, cared
for the animals and any other task needed. Now in
its 88th year, the tradition of volunteerism continues.
Since 2006, work has been progressing
on building a county Rodeo Museum in Sidney, Iowa.
From the first, project organizers had a dream to
have an exhibit to honor volunteers. Today in 2011,
the Museum building is nearing completion and exhibit
construction is beginning. There will be a brick walkway
and exhibit to honor the volunteers. At the entrance
of the Museum a brick pathway will be built with bricks
inscribed with volunteer's names. This is a common
practice but the Rodeo Museum is doing even more.
Each volunteer will not only have a brick inscribed
with their name but also have a picture and story
in a volunteer exhibit. There will also be a rotating
display featuring volunteers, with all of the stories
available for visitors to read as they enjoy the Museum.
If you or someone in your family should be honored
or 712-374-3248 to learn how you can purchase a brick.