Fremont County Iowa

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A View From The Attic

Week of July 25, 2011


Fremont County Historical Society

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 hard work.

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 contact tllewis@wildblue.net or 712-374-3248 to learn how you can purchase a brick.