Back in the Saddle Again

Cowboys and cowgirls, the Jennings Arena Patriot Riders on horseback, American flags proudly waved by 130 rodeo fans, fun and games, line dancing and countless smiles. This describes the 29th Exceptional Rodeo held Friday, August 13 in the Mathewson Center during the second day of the Missouri State Fair.

Rodeo fans came from several counties to celebrate a rodeo theme party with CR McKellips Rodeo Company, Inc. The Exceptional Rodeo started in 1992 by the late Art and Sharon DeJaynes, with just a few people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, this two-hour event has grown to 130 participants. Organized by the Center for Human Services for the past several years, the “rodeo” is underwritten by the Pettis and Saline Senate Bill 40 Boards and numerous companies that provide the event shirts with matching PFI Western Store bandanas, participant medals and American flags.

Lunch was compliments of Subway, Pepsi contributed the drinks and Bimbo Bread Company donated snacks. Coupons were handed out to all from the MO Farm Bureau and Gerken Dairy to enjoy sweet treats on the fairgrounds.

Many of the MO State Fair street entertainers strolled the arena floor entertaining all. The reining MO State Fair and Rodeo Queens took countless photos with admiring fans.

“C R McKellips Rodeo Co., Inc. and the contestants of the Show Me State Rodeo are proud to be part of the Exceptional Rodeo each year. We love to see the excitement in the participants faces and their enjoyment in the sport we love,” states Regan McKellips, coordinator. The rodeo company provided the mechanical bull, the roping dummies and other rodeo themed activities.

Mallory Graves, age 31, has attended the rodeo since she was around five years old. “She looks forward to the rodeo every year and it’s a highlight of her year,” adds Kim Graves, Mallory’s father. “It’s a family event, her aunt and grandparents have attended with her and it thrills us to watch her participate.”

Mallory adds, “I’m ready to get back in the saddle. I’m excited to attend.” The anticipation of this event had been growing for two years as the 2020 rodeo was cancelled.

A special thanks to the MO State Fair for allowing this event to continue in the air-conditioned Mathewson Center. Thanks to all the volunteers and donors that made it all happen. Rodeo fans are counting down the days for the 30th Exceptional Rodeo in 2022.