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The Black Hills Roundup Committee sponsored the second annual Special Needs Rodeo at the South Dakota State High School Rodeo Finals last Saturday. The event gives people with special needs the opportunity to experience rodeo in a safe and enthusiastic environment.

Over 75 participants were able to rope dummies, ride horses and try the "Mighty Bucky", a type of bucking machine. Steers, sheep, rabbits and chickens were provided by local 4-H members for the participants to interact with. The rodeo's goat contractor, John Hight, brought goats, while Jade Nixon of Nixon Bucking Bulls brought a tame bucking bull, named Bambi, for petting. The SunCatcher Therapeutic Riding Academy provided several horses and ramps to facilitate riding. 200 South Dakota high school rodeo athletes spent nearly two hours helping with the special rodeo.

After the rodeo, a lunch was held for all in attendance, which was sponsored by the Beef Checkoff and Scott Peterson Motors. Many rodeo athletes donated their personal trophies and buckles, and each special rodeo participant received a prize. A photo backdrop was in place with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Black Hills Roundup logos, where the participants could take pictures with rodeo queens and competitors.

SDHSRA Student President, Scott Halverson, notes that the event has grown significantly in size since its inaugural year. "I think a lot of people have realized that it's actually more of a big deal. The first year they didn't think it was going to be a big deal," he says. Halverson, along with his friends, Shane Andersen and Chayse McKenney, helped a five year old boy learn to rope during the Special Rodeo. James has severe cerebral palsy, and does not have much control of his muscles. His mother, Melissa Habeck, was eight months pregnant during the event. Scott, Shane and Chayse assisted Melissa by helping James eat lunch and loading James and his walker into her vehicle for the ride home. "There's no questions asked," Halverson says. "We all saw that it needed to be done. It's one of those experiences you'll never forget with your friends."

With just two years of existence, the Special Needs Rodeo has grown in both popularity and participation. The Black Hills Roundup looks forward to hosting it next year at the 2018 SDHSRF. F

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