Marching through Dayton

DAYTON – He may be the rodeo’s biggest fan, and he’s certainly one of the oldest.

Allen Porter rode in the annual Dayton Rodeo Labor Day parade this year, overseeing the event that grew from him and two others doing rope tricks in the park 76 years ago.

It’s unbelievable how, with community support, the rodeo has grown from those humble beginnings to its modern form, Porter said.

“I was 95 years old April 25th. I’m pretty lucky that I can still be around,” he said. “The only problem is I should have been on horseback today.”

Porter rode in a golf cart this year. He was the parade marshal last year, and injured his back and neck when he fell from the horse-drawn buggy. Those injuries have healed, and haven’t slowed him down.

“I was in the care center for 30 days, but that wasn’t for me,” he said. “That was a thrill that comes once in a lifetime to ride through that parade, and throw the candy out to the little kids, and be able to do it.”

“This was a dream I had when I was a kid. Wild West shows would come to the country, and my dad would take us to see them, and it got in my blood. I kept telling my cousins, we’re going to have a rodeo in Dayton. It got to be like I was a laughingstock ‘When are you going to have it, when are you going to have it?’ Well we finally have it. It’s a dream come true.”

In Dayton for the first time this weekend, professional rodeo clown Cody Sosebee was impressed by what it’s become as well.

“It’s a big-time pro rodeo in a small town,” Sosebee said. “It’s kind of a small farming town, but the personnel here are the best of the best.”

He had praise for bullfighter Cory Wall, as well. Wall is a professional who has been coming to Dayton for about 7 years. He was named bullfighter of the year in 2009.

Wall said the bulls and riders here have been scoring quite high.

“We had an 88-point bull ride last night,” Wall said. “You don’t see that often.”

Wall’s job is to put his own life in danger to protect bull riders from the bull when they fall. He showed his skill Monday afternoon, when he inserted his body between cowboy Nic Lica and a bull named Big Block to get Lica out of the way of a potentially dangerous butting.

Nobody was injured. Lica’s ride on the bull earned him 79 points and fourth place overall for the weekend.

The Labor Day parade was the defining feature of the rodeo’s final day, with a nearly hour-long display of horses, riders and floats.

“We like to come to the parade every year,” said Sandy Spencer, of Callender, who was there with her grandchildren.

The kids enjoy the rodeo, too. But would they ever want to ride in it themselves when they get bigger?

“No, right now,” said Devon Olson, 5.

He’s not that far off; the mutton busting event is for kids ages 5 to 7.

Ashley Hennessy, Fort Dodge, said her young nieces and nephews enjoy the rodeo and the vendors beforehand.

“They like getting their own hats. They can get them colored,” she said.

Even with seven pro events to enjoy, one amateur event always proves popular – the wild horse races.

Though the whole rodeo is fun, the wild horses were her favorite part, said Janice Napolitano, of Jefferson.

Mike Wenger, of Grand Junction, agreed. He’s been coming to the rodeo on and off for the last 20 years.

Even Junior Dayton Rodeo queen Paige Steinkamp said it’s one of their favorite events.

“It’s the main event for the night. People really get cranked up for it,” said Tom Stufflebean, of Humboldt, who helps to run and judge the event.

A team of three has to get a saddle on a wild, untrained horse, get a rider onto its back and ride the horse across a finish line, then dismount and run to the judge.

“It’s an adrenaline rush, like guys who go skydiving,” Stufflebean said.

“The trick is as soon as they come out, you have to get your arm around their neck, so you don’t have to walk up the rope. Lots of times if you go walking up the rope, the horse will strike you. Then it’s just luck, getting on and staying on.”