The sound of Roger Mooney’s voice is heard over the loud speakers. It’s official, Edgewood Rodeo Days has begun. People from all around come to the small town just to attend Edgewood’s annual Rodeo Days celebration. For some, it is their first time, and to others, a yearly routine. But how did Rodeo Days start? What goes on during this fun-filled weekend? And who are the people that make it happen each year?
Edgewood Rodeo Days was started 28 years ago when Gerald Perrinjaquet brought the idea to the attention of the members of the chamber board at the time. The idea was a hit, and the chamber started to plan the first rodeo. It was held at the Edgewood Feed Mill’s grain elevator. Back then, it wasn’t an occasion that would bring in thousands of people. After two years of having the rodeo at the feed mill, it was then held at the town football field. And then once again held the next year at the feed mill. In 1992, Day Welterlen donated the current grounds to the city of Edgewood and the event has been at the same location ever since. Many improvements and advances have been made since it was started. Since then, the rodeo has become a popular weekend of fun for all to attend.
Many people from different places come to see what Edgewood Rodeo Days is about. But how do they find out about it in the first place? Advertising is a main part of making rodeo days a hit. Radio commercials, flyers, newspaper write ups, and people spreading the word are just a few ways people from far away find out about the rodeo. It is also been advertised on Facebook, as well as on the city of Edgewood’s website. Coming soon will be the option to purchase rodeo tickets online, but as of now they can be purchased from chamber of commerce members, and at all Community Savings Bank locations.
Not many people know just how much preparation goes in to making the rodeo such a successful event. There are many different people and groups who help with the small details that are very important. The Edgewood Chamber of Commerce plays a big role to be sure. Sponsors are also a very important part each year. If it weren’t for these people and their donations, the rodeo wouldn’t be the entertaining event it is. There are many different duties that go into making the weekend great for all who attend. There is a line of food stands near the entrance of the grounds. Those who are attending the rodeo have many choices of places to eat at the rodeo grounds. Local groups in Edgewood, such as the Woodcenter Eagles 4H Club, church groups, and a few others operate these food stands. To many, the famous "chicken tent" is their favorite. The Edgewood Recreation Association runs this red and white striped tent. Adults can also enjoy a few drinks in another. To some, the amount of alcohol that is sold can be a turnoff, but police offers are brought in to monitor the rodeo grounds and make sure it is a safe family-friendly environment. All of the preparation that goes in to this weekend is very important and those who help prepare for the rodeo make sure that the small details are all taken care of.
Last year, approximately 11,000 people attended Edgewood Rodeo Days. No matter the age, there is something for everyone to enjoy. On Thursday afternoon there is a kid’s carnival on Main Street. There are many different games for a range of age levels. Watermelon, drinks, and cotton candy are sold throughout the day. The game-filled afternoon is sponsored by local businesses, and put on by the Ed-Co volleyball team.
“It’s a fun way to kick the rodeo off for the kids and have them win games and prizes. And it’s one of the things that is just for the kids, and not for all who attend,” said volleyball coach Eileen Bergan. Kids that want to meet Miss Rodeo Iowa, and Miss Teen Rodeo Iowa are able to do so at the carnival. These two ladies have a table set up, and spend their time signing autographs and talking to the kids. The rodeo on Thursday night is dedicated to families. This night includes a pig scramble, and a clown who cracks jokes for children to laugh at. The night is a fundraiser for Tough Enough to Wear Pink.
During the rodeo each night there is a stand that sells cowboy hats, belt buckles, lassos and much more. This allows adults, teens, and younger kids to purchase some sort of memorabilia.
On Friday night, there is a golf tournament at Woods Edge, and the proceeds go to the Nick Brady Scholarship Fund. Also on Friday, kids get a chance to catch a greased pig in the pig scramble. A handful of dressed up teenage girls from Edgewood come to the middle of the arena, and Miss Edgewood is crowned during intermission. A band plays toward the end of the night. At 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, people of all ages assemble at the local sports complex to participate in the annual 5K run and walk. At two in the afternoon, there is a parade that takes place. Local sports teams and businesses enter floats for all to see. A few groups of people from or around Edgewood can be found riding their horses in the parade. Some of the most popular parade entries have come from Kendrick’s Forest Products, a logging business in Edgewood. Every year they have themes for their wood covered floats, and they are always crowd pleasers.
“The average time spent on making the floats is thirty hours per float. That can change depending on the number of employees that volunteer to stay late to work on them,” said Kendrick’s employee Amanda Burgin. The Cruisers on the Edge Car Club displays their classic cars from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. After the parade, there is a lunch stand in the park, along with a series of dance performances, and a kiddie tractor pull. On the east side of the rodeo grounds, teams made up of adults from local businesses compete in a tug-of-war competition. The whole town is busy, as Saturday is the night that brings in the biggest crowd. By 7:30 p.m. the bleachers and sky boxes are filled and there is an excitement in the air. Next comes Saturday night’s entertainment. A popular band plays music for adults. When the barrel racing, bareback, and bull riding are over, the rodeo crew packs up their gates and animals and heads back home. At 8 on Sunday morning the Edgewood Fire Department holds their annual Fireman’s Breakfast at the fire station. Many people attend, as they prepare to spend their day at the rodeo grounds, watching the Demolition Derby. This involves cars crashing into each other to see who is the last one standing. The Sunday of rodeo is often very hot, so food stands prosper. When the demolition derby is over, the stands start to close, and put their tents and picnic tables away for the next year. The clean up process begins and it is officially the end of Edgewood days.
Not only does the town of Edgewood thrive during Rodeo Days, but they also give back. While attending the rodeo, a person will see many dressed in pink attire. In 2005, Edgewood started to fund raise for Tough Enough to Wear Pink by selling apparel and taking donations. Hair salons in Edgewood started to support this cause by selling pink hair extensions during the street carnival. The Tough Enough to Wear Pink organization was started in 2004 by a breast cancer survivor and has since then flourished and raised over 12 million dollars for breast cancer charities. This organization is sponsored by Wrangler, and gives back to charities and other organizations such as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and many more.
Not only does the rodeo promote having a fun time, but it also influences young viewers. Around 31% of Ed-Co’s high school students say that the rodeo makes them interested in pursuing a career as part of a rodeo. A large amount of these teens have helped out at some point during the weekend, whether it be helping with food stands or cleaning the grounds. For the Ed-Co volleyball team, putting on the carnival is their way of helping out. “It is a way for the volleyball team to do community service, and be able to work with the businesses to provide or fund a game for the carnival,” said Eileen Bergan. Many of the students at Ed-Co High say that they have met new friends while attending the rodeo. Some say they met people who were part of the rodeo, who influenced them to grow up to be just like them.
In order to keep the rodeo grounds the clean environment that it is, there are people who maintain the grounds before, during, and after the event. In the early hours before the rodeo begins, people can be found cleaning under the bleachers, around the food stands, and in the skyboxes. Girl Scouts, FBLA members, local 4H groups, as well as other organizations and citizens of the community help with all of this.
The rodeo is a great opportunity for businesses to make money and advertise. There are two guest suites for people to rent and stay in for the weekend. Those who are passing through might make a stop at the local restaurants for a bite to eat. Many of the food stands at the rodeo grounds buy their ingredients or needed items for their stands from the local grocer, so Karl’s Grocery is very busy. Shops in town are hectic as people are rushing to purchase their "Tough Enough To Wear Pink" gear. Chiropractors are also doing a lot of work in order to keep the cowboys and cowgirls in good physical shape. Kendrick Forest Products provide the sawdust and mulch for the rodeo, as well machinery for the demolition derby. They will be celebrating thirty years in business this year and will be hosting tours through the sawmill during Rodeo Days, which will also promote their local business. Another business that is widely advertised during rodeo days is F.E. Welterlen Motors. Not only do they enter their vehicles in the parade, but they are also shown during the rodeo. All in all, the event gives the town of Edgewood a chance to show off how they do business.
Of course the rodeo couldn’t go on if there weren’t bucking bulls and a rodeo clown. The first four years of Rodeo Days, James Sears Rodeo Company was the stock contractor. After that, the Chamber of Commerce hired a new stock contractor-- Three Hills Rodeo Company. This company has brought livestock to the rodeo ever since. The owners of the Three Hills Rodeo are David and Jake Morehead. This family-owned business has been around for over 28 years. Their ranch is located in Bernard, Iowa. They are known to bring entertainment to each show they put on. One of the entertainers they have featured in Edgewood is Robbie Hodges, a clown and barrel man. But the most known entertainer that has come to Edgewood is rodeo announcer Roger Mooney, whose voice is almost famous to the small town. “Edgewood Rodeo Days is a great event and it’s all a town effort to make it fun,” said owner of Three Hills Rodeo, David Morehead.
A person attending the rodeo cannot only spectate, but they can also participate. Some of the events that are held for non-rodeo people are the "Rescue Race" and an event called "Money the Hard Way". The Rescue Race is when one participant rides a horse from one end of the rodeo grounds to the other, then has to pick up their partner and race back to the beginning spot. The point of this is to see which group can make it back in the fastest amount of time. The famous "Money the Hard Way" is dangerous and risky game. Tokens are attached to a bull’s horns and participants try to grab the tokens off of his horns without being chased or charged by the bull. The winners of these two games are awarded cash prizes. Some people, who are from or who live around the Edgewood area have also participated in rodeo competitions. For some it has been barrel racing, and for others-- bull riding.
Lately there have been many improvements made in order to make the rodeo more popular and fun to those who attend. In 2009, a row of sky boxes were put above the south set of bleachers. These sky boxes have given businesses in and around Edgewood the opportunity to advertise their business, while providing seating for whomever they choose. Handicapped seating was also added to the rodeo grounds. A wooden platform was constructed and is wheelchair accessible for those in need. More picnic tables have been placed around the food stands so people can sit down and enjoy ice cream, a hot dog, or even a bucket of fried chicken. Another improvement that was added is that there will be additional parking at the Edgewood Event Center. More parking is always needed, and continues to be created. All of these new advances have and will benefit those who are watching the rodeo.
If attending the rodeo or walking around town beforehand, a person might see Elise Bergan scurrying around town. She is a very important person in the community, especially in her efforts to make the rodeo go smoothly. She could be seen sorting out last minute details in her office, driving around on her golf cart during the parade, or making sure things at the rodeo grounds are ready for the large crowds that rodeo weekend brings.
Some may wonder where the rodeo profits go, and what those profits do for the community. “We donate some of the rodeo profits to local groups such as FBLA, Girl Scouts, and the Boy Scouts. But most of the money goes towards community projects,” said Bergan. Some of the past rodeo profits have gone toward projects such as the industrial park, and the 3-mile sign outside of town.
Overall, the town of Edgewood and many of the citizens take great pride in this annual event. Some of the local residents decorate their homes and yards with cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and lassos. There are so many people that put their blood, sweat, and tears in to making the rodeo happen each year. One wouldn’t be able to account for each and every person who plays some part. Who would’ve thought that the rodeo would have changed and progressed so much over the past twenty-six years? Edgewood Rodeo Days is something that the small town of Edgewood can certainly be proud of.
*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.