Community effort

DAYTON – A simple equation illustrates how the 76th annual Dayton National Championship Rodeo can be a success.

Volunteers = Rodeo

Of course, “volunteers” in this case means many volunteers.

Rob Scott, a member of the Rodeo Committee, estimated there are more than 200 people doing various jobs around the site.

“It takes a ton of people to run,” he said.

Earl Hanson’s job at the rodeo is loud.

He’s responsible for launching the salutes that are used to signal 10 minutes to showtime, the end of the Serpentine Riders performance and the start of the Wild Horse Race.

Hanson took over the job from his uncle, Mel Hanson, more than 25 years ago.

He’s only had a few mishaps over the course of that time.

“I had one go off a little lower than it should,” he said. “One landed in the stock pen, but it just went poof.”

The pipe out of which he launches the three-inch mortars has been replaced at least once over the years.

In spite of dry conditions, he said the fireworks have never started any fires.

“I’ve blown a branch off of the trees,” he said.

Making sure the arena is perfect for competitors is the responsibility of Rod Springer, of Stanhope. He works with fellow volunteers Clint Griner, of Webster City and Ben Bingston, of Boxholm.

He said getting it perfect – not too dry, not too wet, not too hard and not too soft – is a matter of experience.

It also takes a lot of water.

“We use about 2,500 gallons a day,” he said.

That’s split into two doses, half is applied after the night’s performance, the other right before.

The current heat doesn’t help.

“It’s not my friend,” Griner said.

After the water is applied, the arena is run over with a cultivator and Whirly, a round wheel with spikes that rotates as it’s pulled along. It works like a sander to smooth out the dirt.

The whole process takes a bit over an hour and when it’s done, it has to pass his boot scoop quality control inspection.

“I dig down a bit to check the moisture level below the surface,” he said.

Justin Egli, of Barnum, volunteers to help out with the mutton busting competition which lets younger participants get a taste of trying to stay on a bucking animal: a sheep.

One of his duties is making sure the children who participate are fitted properly with protective gear.

That includes a helmet and vest for his daughter, Kyla Egli, 6.

She was getting a break on the mandated long sleeve shirt and boots – for now.

“Nobody has to be totally ready till right before,” he said. “It’s pretty hot.”

She had a plan for the competition.

“Just hang on,” she said.

The top prize in the event is a new pair of boots – and a bonus.

“And you get to go to Omaha,” she said.

He will also help later, he guides the children into the ring, helps them get onto the sheep and when they nod indicating they’re ready.

“We turn the sheep loose,” he said.

Paige Panley, of Honey Creek, is this year’s Miss Teen Rodeo.

She has a job to do, too.

“I’m either chasing cows or running flags,” she said.

Jesse Green, vice president of the Rodeo Committee, spent some time in the VIP section Saturday.

With a broom – sweeping.

“I love it,” he said.