Rocking back and forth on a hand-controlled bull, Isaac Burden of Echo smiled and waved to the Pendleton Round-Up crowd.
And the crowd went wild, chanting, “Isaac! Isaac! Isaac!”
About 160 of his kindergarten through fifth grade classmates made the trip from Echo to cheer him on during Thursday morning’s Children’s Rodeo.
When his eight seconds were up, Burden asked, “Can I go again?”
The helpers obliged.
For a full hour on Thursday morning before the second day of the Pendleton Round-Up, 50 children experienced the jubilation that comes with being a real-life cowboy or cowgirl.
Children 5-12 with varying special needs traveled from across northeastern Oregon to participate in the 32nd annual rodeo. Events included bull riding, steer roping, barrel racing on stick horses, and a new addition to this year’s rodeo — Frank Rendon’s “Legendary Longhorns” from Sweet Home, where the kids sat atop Shot Gun and Show Gun and got their picture taken.
As participants made their way out onto the grassy oval with a volunteer, cowboys — some local and some in town competing at Round-Up — accompanied each child to run through the events.
“They get to do things they normally wouldn’t,” said Children’s Rodeo director Karen Parker, who works with InterMountain Education Service District to organize the event.
Kids didn’t appear to have a consensus favorite event, though some gravitated towards a certain one, like Burden with the bull riding.
April Johns, who stuck with Burden throughout the rodeo for the second straight year, said there is no greater experience these kids get than Children’s Rodeo.
In addition to kids’ families, students from Echo, Cove and Ione also came to cheer on the rodeo participants.
Elsewhere, rodeo announcer Marty Campbell bounced around the events talking to kids, cowboys and volunteers about their experience, hoping to add more color to the rodeo for people watching from the stands.
“Just trying to relay everything going on out here to those kids up there, their parents and their families,” Campbell said. “We try to make it feel like these kids are competing at the Pendleton Round-Up.”
Contact Will Denner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0809.