Drama at the rodeo

DAYTON – The Dayton Rodeo got off to a dramatic start Saturday evening when the second cowboy out of the chute, A.J. Colletti, of Pueblo, Colorado, got a bit more than an 8-second ride when he was unable to get his hand out of the cinch used to hold onto the kicking horse he was trying to stay on.

The horse dragged him around the arena several times before a group of bull fighters and other cowboys were able to get the horse settled down and free Colletti.

In spite of the wild ride, amazingly, he walked out of the arena.

While most rides end routinely, the rider gets tossed into the dirt or picked up by a another cowboy on horseback, none of it would ever happen without the effort of the many volunteers who make the rodeo a reality.

Their jobs vary quite a bit.

Martha Steinkamp, of Fort Dodge, and Andrea Grady, of Dayton, were working side by side in the Dayton Wranglers Cook Shack. Their job for the night, putting cheeseburgers together, inserting brats into buns and then wrapping them in waxed paper in a sweltering hot building.

“It’s become tradition for me to be involved with the rodeo,” Steinkamp said. “Tonight, we’re assembling all the burgers.”

For Grady, it’s tradition too.

“I was born and raised in Dayton,” she said. “It’s one of the things you get to do.”

They were both enjoying their night.

“You get to see lots of people and get really hot,” Grady said.

There’s no age limit on volunteers.

Nathan Graves, 9, of Dayton, spent the evening carrying a big box containing bags of popcorn through the stands.

He said the popcorn sold itself. He wasn’t sure why he was doing it, though.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t want to go to the rodeo, then when I started doing this I just kept going.”

Each volunteer gets a free ticket to the rodeo for working a performance, including Grady.

He was planning on coming back and using his.

“Then I’ll have two,” he said. “I got one from my teacher too.”

Aaron Nigro, of Ogden, had one of the hottest jobs at the rodeo. He was manning the grill where all the brats and steaks were being cooked.

He said it’s important for people to step up and help.

“I think it’s very important,” he said. “Even that they do a little more than their part.”

Jesse Green, a member of the rodeo committee, said that more than 400 people volunteer their time to help make the rodeo happen.

“No,” he said, “it wouldn’t be possible without them.”

Kenny Sanders, of Dayton, was recognized this year with the annual Community Service Award.

Dayton Mayor Richard Travis cited his many years of service to the Dayton community and the rodeo.

“I’ve got a list that’s four pages long of what he’s been involved with,” Travis said. “He’s still going strong.”

Sanders was quick to share the credit.

“I’ve been fortunate,” he said. “I’ve had excellent people to work with.”

Earl Hanson, of Dayton, has one of the noisiest volunteer jobs at the rodeo. He launches the fireworks salutes that signal 10 minutes to start time, start time and the start of the Wild Horse Race.

He’s been at it for 30 years.

“I helped my uncle before that,” he said.

Like Colletti, Hanson has had close calls over the years.

“I had one that only went up about 30 feet before it went off,” he said before pulling down the brim of his cowboy hat to indicate the effect of the report.

Of course, he gladly does it for free.