Dayton rodeo kicks off the weekend

DAYTON – It may only be a handful of the people in the audience at the opening night of the 76th annual Dayton National Championship Rodeo that can say it’s actually their first rodeo.

Charlie Lovin, 7, of Rosemount, Minn., is one of them.

His grandfather, Al Henderson, of Fort Dodge, brought him along.

“I thought it would be fun,” Lovin said. He was properly dressed with a cowboy hat purchased on vacation in the Black Hills.

Before Friday, he had only been able to watch the sport on television. Live action just a few feet away was an improvement.

“It’s way better,” Lovin said.

He said he that, so far, the team roping was his favorite event.

Jody Green, of Shakopee, Minn., doesn’t just jump on his horse, Cooper. Before they enter the ring, they, like any professional pair of athletes, warm up.

“It’s important,” Green said. “You need good flexibility.”

That goes for Cooper as well.

“He gets a little warm-up,” Green said.

Green is an example of the dedication that’s required to compete at the national level. He not only holds down a physically demanding job, he also spends four to five hours each day working on his roping skills.

In addition to physical agility, the successful competitor needs something else: mental focus.

“Especially at this level,” Green said.

Many of the rodeo competitors start young. Events are held at most rodeos that small children can participate in.

Sometimes, though, they get to watch the adults – and that’s what Grady Green, 4, of Cherry Valley, Ill., was doing from atop a walkway.

“I’m watching,” he said after carefully tucking in his shirt.

But he also lent a hand.

“I’m helping sort cattle,” he said. “That’s all.”

In addition to the rodeo, there is a flea market, vendors and carnival rides.

One of the vendors, Muir Embroidery and Sports Shop, of Jefferson, became a stop for Mackenzie Lambert, 9, of Dayton. She had selected a pair of pink, white and red boots with a heart on them. Lambert was already wearing them while her siblings continued to shop.

“My favorite color is red,” she said, adding, “I like pink and I like hearts.”

She planned on saving them for some special occasions and, of course, “4-H and the rodeo,” she said.

Today’s rodeo begins at 7 p.m., as does the Sunday night event. On Monday, the annual Labor Day parade starts at 10 a.m. with the rodeo kicking off at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are $17 for adults and $7 for children.