The Pendleton Round-Up may best be known for its heart-pounding rodeo and the professional cowboys who compete in it, but there’s another event that’s changing the lives of its participants. The Children’s Rodeo offers special needs children the opportunity to be cowboys and cowgirls for an hour of fun inside the famous Round-Up Arena. The Children’s Rodeo will kicks off Wednesday, the first day of the Round-Up.The 40 or so children who participate in the Children’s Rodeo are special education students with either mental or physical handicaps. Each child receives a trophy, T-shirt, lariat, cowboy hat, scarf and a photo with a cowboy.
The Round-Up Association funds the event, while the Umatilla-Morrow Education Service District (ESD) co-sponsors it each year. Nearly 80 volunteers from the ESD, Round-Up Association, Western Trails Therapeutic Riding Center and others involved in the community and with the Round-Up help to make the event a success. Children from all over Eastern Oregon and beyond will ride horses, challenge their balancing skills on a hand-rocked bucking bull, rope pretend steers, barrel race on stick ponies and participate in goat “un”-tying. In addition, each child will have his or her picture taken with a Round-Up cowboy or cowgirl.
Children’s Rodeo Director Karen Parker said she’s hoping a large crowd will turn out to watch event, in which these special children are stars for a day. “I’d love for people to see these children in a different light as just normal kids,” Parker said. “When people are in the stands cheering, it lets the kids feel like they’re in the spotlight. They’re the stars and it makes them feel pretty special.” Each child receives a trophy, T-shirt, lariat, cowboy hat, scarf and a photo with a cowboy
Several local school districts bring their elementary school students to the Children’s Rodeo to cheer on the participants, something Parker said really brings a smile on the faces of the participants. Those schools then receive tickets – courtesy of the Pendleton Round-Up Association – to watch the main rodeo afterwards. These students also visit the Indian Village and the Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame. Also, look for the Children’s Rodeo float in the Dress-Up Parade on Saturday. Several of the children who will participate in the Children’s Rodeo also will ride on the float, which is decorated by ESD and other community volunteers.
More Information Media who would like to interview Children’s Rodeo Director Karen Parker and Umatilla – Morrow ESD Superintendent Mark Mulvihill should plan to arrive in the Round-Up Arena by 10:45 a.m. the day of the event. Interviews with parents and special education teachers of Children’s Rodeo participants also will be available. Contact Casey White, UMESD Director of Public & Community Relations, for more information and to schedule interviews, 541-966-3115, or email@example.com.