LOVINGTON, N.M. – In every community, there are children who would love the opportunity to be a cowboy or a cowgirl, even for a day.
Without events like the Special Rodeo, many children never would get the opportunity. Physical disabilities don’t allow for them to rope or ride. They still dream nonetheless.
That’s why the organizers at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo love putting on its annual Special Rodeo, set for 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at Jake McClure Arena. It’s just another fabulous event that’s part of the eight-day county celebration that runs Aug. 5-13.
“That is one of the most humbling experiences you’ll ever go through,” said Dean Jackson, chairman of the fair board. “We don’t realize how fortunate we are. The thrill you see on those kids’ faces just from roping a dummy or riding a horse … that is unadulterated happiness.
“Until you’ve done that for someone, you can’t explain it. It brings a chill over my body every time.”
The event takes place a little before the start of the third night of the rodeo, which is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10-Saturday, Aug. 13. The actual rodeo will feature most of the top hands in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The Special Rodeo will, too, because the best cowboys in the business enjoy bringing that kind of light into a youngster’s life.
“The funny thing is the parents have the same attitude these kids do … just happiness,” Jackson said. “To me, it’s amazing. We don’t have any problems finding volunteers for the Special Rodeo. It’s a life-altering event. You can’t imagine what it does to you.”
It might just be the most special event happening during the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, but there are plenty of outstanding things going on. Another hot topic for the youngest rodeo fans is mutton busting for children who weigh less than 50 pounds. The pre-performance competition featuring all entrants will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the arena. Entry fee is $7, and the child must be present at registration. The top 40 scorers advance, and 10 contestants will be featured before each of the rodeo performances beginning at 7 p.m.
“The mutton busting has always been a big hit for us,” said Greg Massey, chairman of the rodeo committee. “It’s a lot of fun watching those kids, and it really helps get the crowd excited for the rodeo.”
Fair festivities kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, with the Local Team Roping, a No. 13 handicapped event for Lea County residents only. Entry fee is $150 per roper, and teams will compete in a four-round progressive. The top 12 teams then qualify for the short go-round, which will follow the regular roping.
The 4H Horse Show will take place Saturday, Aug. 6. See www.leacounty.net for more information. The open 4D barrel race is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 8, and the queen contest will help crown the fair and rodeo’s queen and princess.
The 31st annual Fiddler’s Contest is planned for the final two days of the fair. A jam session is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, while registration for the contest begins at noon Saturday, Aug. 13. The contest will begin at 1 p.m.
“These great events are things a lot of people love to watch, and a lot of others love to take part in them,” Jackson said. “It makes it a lot of fun for everyone.”