A new tradition began in LaFayette last week when the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department hosted the first annual Special Needs Rodeo on Thursday at the Chambers County Agricultural Park. Even though it was the inaugural event, organizers were thrilled at the participation and overwhelmed by the positive response it generated.
Sheriff Sid Lockhart and rodeo organizer Eddie Adams first got the idea to host a Special Needs Rodeo after seeing one in north Alabama. As the idea began to fall in to place, it was decided to host it the day before the 18th Annual Sheriff’s Rodeo.
It was truly a special day. Over 600 children and adults with special needs came from schools and facilities from Chambers, Randolph, Lee and Russell Counties. They played games, including a beanbag toss, ring toss and cupcake walk. There was a dance area, train rides and a ventriloquist. The petting zoo area brought an exciting time as children and adults got to milk a cow, sheer a sheep and pet a horse.
They got to see the Southern Cross Drill Team and live rodeo displays including bull riding, bareback bronc riding, team roping, steer wrestling and tie down roping. Very special guest Cowboy Kenny Bartram gave a performance on his motorcycle and the LiveSaver helicopter landed next to the arena.
In all, it was truly an exciting day for all those that took part.
“It was wonderful, it truly was overwhelming,” Sheriff Lockhart said. “From all those that came out and had so much fun, to all those that volunteered their time to make this possible.”
Sheriff Lockhart says it couldn’t have happened were it not for all the support from those involved. “From the stock company who brought in the animals a day early, to the cowboys and cowgirls that came out to give demonstrations to Cowboy Kenny Bartram with his motorcycle, so many people helped out,” he said. “These kids and adults got to enjoy something that many of them have never been able to see before, and that was great.”
Lockhart estimated that there were nearly 200 volunteers helping at the rodeo on Thursday.
Nearly every school in the Chambers County School system was represented at the rodeo as was Valley Haven School. Chambers County School Director of Special Education Diane Sherriff said that approximately 175 Chambers County students participated. “I think the rodeo was a complete success,” Sherriff said. “There were so many activities for the students to participate in. We are so appreciative of the Sheriff’s Department and all of the volunteers who worked so hard to make everything run so smoothly. This exceeded all of our expectations! We can’t wait for next year.”
“It went above and beyond my wildest expectations,” Adams said. “It was a heartwarming experience, in fact, a woman came up to me and said ‘this has restored my faith in humanity, that y’all would go through this much trouble and have so many volunteers to put this thing together.’ That really touched me.”
Sheriff Lockhart said he no doubt would like this to continue in the future. “We’ve had a great response so far and that will hopefully allow us to make this bigger and get more people involved next year.”