It's time for the annual Walla Walla Community College Rodeo, Riding Against Child Abuse, March 11-13 at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds, a fun family event that combines community awareness and education.
The rodeo draws about 200 contestants from all over the Pacific Northwest. It's a collaboration of hundreds of volunteers, individuals and businesses, all taking a stand against child abuse and neglect. It's also a fun, family-oriented weekend of events.
"It's one of the finest small college rodeos anywhere. It really is a community effort," said Dick Cook, president of the Walla Walla Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
In addition to raising awareness about the issue, a portion of the funds received go to promote educational efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect.
According to Cook, the profits from the weekend's activities are equally split between the Walla Walla Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect and the Walla Walla Community College Rodeo Program.
It takes about 400 volunteers to put on the rodeo as well as about 150 businesses and individuals that donate funds to help offset costs involved in putting on the event, he said.
The quality of the weekend's events is due to several things, primarily the community's commitment to preventing child abuse.
"It starts with a cause, you have to have a cause," he said.
"Then you need a good rodeo team, supported by the community. Then you need an Exchange Club of at least 100 members or so and you need business partners who can donate some money. In the last couple of years, with the economy, we've lost some but we've gained some, too."
It's a big draw for people from all over. With the four rodeo performances, there's always a strong turn out.
One of the most popular events of the weekend is the Little Kid's Rodeo at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
"They are mostly under 12 and they're not farm kids," Cook explained. And there's nothing cuter than little kids learning new things.
Another crowd pleaser is the Cowboy Breakfast, also on Saturday morning from 8-11. It runs before, during and after the Little Kids Rodeo.
Something new this year is the western art theme in the form of artwork by Rowdy Barry. A number of his prints will be available for purchase. His painting, "Another Good Day" is featured on the poster this year.
In stark contrast to the wholesomeness of the events and the lovely images portrayed in the artwork, the need for child abuse prevention continues.
The message is clear: provide an increased awareness in the community of the need to prevent child abuse and neglect and provide education and help for parents.
According to Cook, physical and emotional abuse are still huge problems. But an even bigger problem now is neglect. One of the things the Council provides is a baby bag for new parents at the hospital. The bag contains a wealth of parenting information and resources.
If you or a loved one needs help call 509-524-4902, in Walla Walla or Columbia counties, 24 hours a day.
Schedule of events:
Walla Walla County Fairgrounds
General admission at the gate
$8 adults, $2 children under 12, $4 students/seniors, pre-school children free, $12 family
Friday, March 11, 7 p.m., College Rodeo
Saturday, March 12, 8-11 a.m. Cowboy Breakfast, Community Center
$5 adults, $12 family, $2 children under 12, $4 students/seniors, free pre-school children
9:30 a.m. Free Little Kid's Rodeo
1:30 p.m. College Rodeo
7 p.m. College Rodeo
Sunday, March 13
noon, College Rodeo
Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-83224 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.