The pre-opener of the World's Oldest Rodeo kicked off Monday afternoon in Prescott with an uplifting performance of the Happy Heart Rodeo for children with special needs, thanks to Horses with HEART volunteers and applause from the stands.
Working with the Prescott Frontier Days, Inc., team and rodeo contestants, the hour-long event provided a real rodeo experience for these exceptional children.
Competing in four events - bronco riding, sheep (un)tying; horseback riding, and stick horse racing - the children win ribbons and medals. Many look forward to this event as the highlight of their year; others ride for the first time.
Participating in the arena with an announcer calling the events over the PA system, they interact with volunteers, cowboys and rodeo queens.
In the early 1980s, the wife of a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association cowboy came up with the idea to offer exceptional children a first-hand experience at rodeo.
The idea became a reality, and Prescott Frontier Days, Inc., and PRCA have been involved ever since.
Happy Hearts Rodeo participants and families also enjoy a Cowboy Dinner.