Special Needs Rodeo brings smiles to the faces of hundreds

Published 2:13 pm Thursday, April 4, 2019

LaFAYETTE — Hundreds of smiling faces and expressions of joy could be found Thursday afternoon at the Chambers County Agricultural Arena during the Chambers County Special Needs Rodeo.

Children from Chambers, Lee, Randolph, Tallapoosa and Russel Counties were in attendance to engage in several activities at the arena and then treated to a small rodeo.

The Special Needs Rodeo holds a special place in the heart of Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart. He started the Special Needs Rodeo nine years ago in addition to the Sheriff’s Rodeo, which has been an annual tradition in Chambers County for 23 years.

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“It’s hard to explain how I feel about it,” Lockhart said. “I wish every sheriff’s office had a special needs rodeo.”

The sheriff was in high spirits Thursday afternoon with a smile that seemed never to leave his face.

“Somebody came up to me in tears because a kid told her it was the best day of their life,” Lockhart said. “It blesses us more than it does them.”

Chambers County Sheriff Department’s Major Mike Parrish said there were probably 15 to 20 schools at the arena Thursday.

“Everybody is having a blast,” he said. “This right here makes all the hard work we do pay off.”

Before the rodeo got underway, children made their way through a petting zoo, played Musical Chairs, shot basketballs and received face painting supplied by the Valley High School Cheerleading team.

“These kids face so many challenges on a daily basis, so it’s unmeasurable to me the amount of satisfaction they get out of a day like this,” said LaKeisha Conwell, a mother of a child at the event.

After a couple of hours playing games and some dancing at the pavilion, the children, teachers and volunteers, gathered around the arena to watch the animals, along with the cowboys and cowgirls perform.

First, they were treated to a few bull riders attempting to stay on a bucking bull. Next, they watched cowboys and cowgirls try to catch a calf and tie it up. Only one cowboy was successful.

The Special Needs Rodeo sets up the Sheriff’s Rodeo scheduled to take place both Friday and Saturday night at the arena. The gates open both on Friday and Saturday at 5 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $7 for ages 4 to 12 and children under the age of 3 are free. The rodeo is expected to get started at about 8 p.m. ET.

The program started in 1997, according to Lockhart, the year after he was elected. The rodeo was initially held at the Double C Restaurant and Arena on Highway 50 in LaFayette, headed toward Camp Hill. It ran there for about 8 years, Lockhart said, but the property was sold and the rodeo moved to its current location and has been there ever since.

Part of the funds raised from the Sheriff’s Rodeo goes to fund the Special Needs Rodeo.