Special needs students get sneak peek of Etowah County rodeo

The Etowah County Sheriff's rodeo is this weekend, and special needs children from all the Gadsden attended the first show Thursday morning.It fittingly matched the "Goin' Country" theme of this year's Etowah County Special Olympics, which were in April.One of the cowboys asked the 75 special needs children how many of them had ever been to a rodeo before, and only a couple of them raised their hands."I'm enjoying it," 17-year-old Gadsden City High School student Austin Manuel said."Just seeing everybody.{} Eating.{} Enjoying being with people.{} It's a family [event of a] lifetime."First the children saw a show with horse riding, bull riding, and calf roping.{} Then they got to get close and pet some of the animals.{} Chris Russell and some of the other cowboys taught some roping basics to the students."It's awesome.{} They don't get to come out and see this stuff very much," Russell said."Anything you can do to get the kids out, and whether it's special needs kids or any kids, they need to be out and see some stuff.Lone Star Championship Rodeo does events for special needs children nearly every month.{} Sheriff Todd Entrekin said it was the rodeo company's idea to put on the sneak preview for participants in Etowah County's Special Olympics."When they come in, they said 'hey, we like to do stuff for your community.{} What we be good?'," Entrekin said."We came up with the idea of the special needs.{} They wanted to do something to give to the community as they come into town."Trent McFarland is the rodeo clown for the group.{} He's a second-generation clown, and started participating in rodeos about 20 years ago.{} He said the interaction with the children is the best part of the job."It's such a blessing to all of the volunteers and the cowboys.{} We probably get more out of it than the kids.{} It's such a great deal," McFarland said.Tyler Colvin, an 18-year-old from Southside High School, quietly rode his wheelchair to right behind where McFarland was standing and pulled on a handkerchief sticking out of the clown's giant pants."Uh oh," McFarland exclaimed.{} "Hey man, what are you doing?"Tyler and McFarland both had grins plastered on their faces--although the clown's was white, hot pink, and black."That sun's getting in your eyes isn't it," McFarland said as he took off his bright red hat and put it on Tyler's head."Perfect," the clown said.Tyler and his mom plan to come back Friday or Saturday evening to attend one of the other rodeo shows.Austin Manuel said he was going to go back to school and spread the word to his friends who didn't get to go Thursday."Come to the rodeo.{} Have yourselves a great time," he said.Gates open at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Etowah County Fairgrounds in Attalla.{} The rodeo starts at 8.Proceeds from the event support the sheriff's mounted unit and the sheriff's christmas charity, which provides gifts for underprivileged children.
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