For more than an hour, more than 30 special needs students tried their hand in the rodeo arena.
The Exceptional Rodeo was a smashing success as the Fallon Rodeo Club re-ignited a longtime tradition at the Fallon High/Jr. High School Rodeo on Friday.
Cowboys and cowgirls aided the students with special needs in numerous events. The children learned the fundamentals of roping, barrel racing, goat tying and riding a mechanical bull. In addition, several goats were available for the students to pet.
“I see a very positive experience,” said Will Jensen, director of Special Services. “I think having these kids exposed to things they are not exposed to everyday is fantastic for them.”
One student, Kenrich Welch, was a bundle of energy upon entering the arena. At first, Welch was a bit wary of the goats, but once he engaged in undecorating a goat (untying a ribbon secured to the goat’s tail), he was hooked.
Welch bounced from event to event seeking as much fun and knowledge he as could absorb about the sport.
From petting live goats, to riding the bull, Welch was a natural. Upon sitting on the bull, Welch even raised and waved his arm like his high school counterparts would on the real thing.
The most popular activity, though, was the bull riding. The rodeo athletes built a mechanical bull out of a steel drum barrel, fixed it with a saddle and used a bar to push the bull up and down to simulate the real thing.
Students piled up in line to take a crack at the bull with the assistance of three cowboys, two of whom kept a close eye on the newest cowboys and cowgirls.
“I think that is the key, kids teaching kids,” Jensen said. “I think some of the kids are trying to figure out what the heck is this furry animal with the goats.”
The Exceptional Rodeo made its return after about a 10-year absence, according to Jeff Goings, who helped organize the rodeo years ago. He, along with Samantha Gomes, mother to current Fallon cowgirl Jessica Gomes, assisted Jensen with the planning and details of the event.
“We thought it would be a wonderful thing to do,” Gomes said.
Gomes told Jensen the middle and high school athletes wanted to re-establish the event and Jensen was immediately on board.
“From that conversation, Samantha and I have kind of worked together to put legs to that vision,” he added.
The first go for the rodeo took place last year at the Nevada State Finals Rodeo in Fallon. The attendance, though, was nearly nonexistent as school was already out making it difficult to round up the special needs students.
Jensen and Gomes, though, re-adjusted and decided to put on the Exceptional Rodeo during the rodeo’s regular-season stop in Fallon.
As a result, Jensen was able to secure a bus and a field trip to pick up students from several schools throughout the district and shuttle to the fairgrounds.
“Because he (Jensen) allowed the kids to get out of school and got the busses, that’s what made it,” Gomes said. “Our kids love, they were excited about it. The kids from school seem to enjoy it too.”