Letter to the editor: S.D. 4-H Rodeo not directly funded by USDA | TSLN.com

Letter to the editor: S.D. 4-H Rodeo not directly funded by USDA

Loretta Cowan
S.D. 4-H Finals Rodeo Secretary (1972-1982)

April 9, 2018

I am very disappointed with the recent directive that has been handed down in regard to 4-H rodeos in South Dakota.

My biggest disappointment being the fact that the 4-H rodeos which have existed in our state since the late '60s are under attack. These rodeos came about because rural people in remote areas felt there was a need for an activity for young people to participate in. Most of them already had horses and equipment, and there were many knowledgeable people available to guide them. They became associated with 4-H primarily because most were enrolled in 4-H and the parents and leaders recognized 4-H as being beneficial to their children. Some of the county rodeos were already in existence before the State 4-H Finals Rodeo. The rodeos exemplified all of the "words" you hear these days that put emphasis on "family, friends, responsibility, respect, following rules and people helping people." The people who started these rodeos and those who have continued them for over 46 years already knew this and practiced it in their homes and communities. They also believe in our great state of South Dakota and the elements which make it so; the people, traditions, life style and legacies which have been passed through the generations.

I do not need to repeat the benefits 4-H rodeos have had to our youth in South Dakota, it would take up too much of our time. But I would be happy to tell you about them if you wish to listen. And if you want statistics in regard to participation numbers in the way of contestants, volunteers, numbers of rodeos and etc., they can be provided and gladly so.

4-H Rodeo Rules were adapted very closely to the S.D. High School Rodeo Rules. This would benefit the older contestants when they moved into that association. 4-H Rodeo was never a team sport, everyone participated in the same arena and under the same conditions. There are an equal number of events in which boy and girl contestants participate and the prizes are equal. No money has ever been paid back to the contestants in order to maintain their amateur status. There is no membership fee. Contestants are charged an entry fee which is used primarily to cover stock charges. Volunteers make up the work force. Many of them started as youngsters in 4-H Rodeo and now want to give back. No funds were ever provided directly to 4-H Rodeo from the USDA.

We used the 4-H emblem proudly. The 4-H emblem and motto mirrored the mission of 4-H Rodeo. Little did we know that someday it would slap us in the face, that the fact that we were self-sufficient and were not funded directly by the USDA does not matter because we were "indirectly" so and this was supported by our use of "4-H."

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I am sorry to say that in the future, there may not be 4-H Rodeos. The rodeos themselves my continue. The philosophy of the people who put on and support the rodeos will remain.

The USDA, SDSU Extension will be the losers.

Loretta Cowan

S.D. 4-H Finals Rodeo Secretary (1972-1982)