The Special Rodeo: A Silver Spurs tradition for more than 30 years

A few months ago, we talked about the humble beginnings of the Silver Spurs Rodeo along with the cattle industry’s influence on Kissimmee. And while our rodeo started off as a way for neighbors and friends to come together in the name of horsemanship and friendly competition, it’s amazing to see how many people come year after year to watch our rodeo. And while many people flock to the stands to watch our Monsters Bulls performance, the Wrangler Champions Challenge or the Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee. We host another rodeo known as the Special Rodeo that is for all our Special Cowboys and Cowgirls in our community.

The Special Rodeo started back nearly 30 years ago by a Silver Spurs member named Fran McLaughlin. She had a special needs child and wanted him to be able to enjoy all the fun activities’ the other kids enjoyed when they attended the rodeo. So she created an event just for children with special needs and called it the Special Rodeo. For 20 years, the Special Rodeo was held each year at the “old” Silver Spurs Arena that was located where the new one sits today. The only time the Special Rodeo didn’t take place were the few years in between the old arena being torn down and the new Silver Spurs Arena being built. When the new arena was finished, two Silver Spurs members, Bridget Coggins and Sara Belinksy, took over hosting and putting together the Special Rodeo to carry on this Silver Spurs tradition.

Today, before our Sunday afternoon performance each February, Silver Spurs Club members, volunteers, rodeo contestants and queens from across the nation, and community leaders come together to volunteer at this one of a kind event. Filled with kid-friendly, rodeo-themed games, and activities, the Silver Spurs club invites special needs children and their families to the arena, with help from the Osceola County School District  for a morning of rodeo fun.

Greeted with a goody bag, the children rock a bandanna, Special Rodeo shirt, straw cowboy hat, and Justin Boots back number as they enter the arena. But before the fun begins, each child is assigned their own personal rodeo buddy. As their rodeo buddy, the Silver Spurs members or volunteers help them explore the different stations throughout the arena.

Each year, the kids have the opportunity to ride a real horse, ride a fake rocking bull, climb inside a rodeo clown’s barrel, rope a steer dummy, sit on the iconic Silver Spurs blue boot, pose with a rodeo queen, pet a cow or sheep, and explore the inside of a SWAT truck. After they have successfully visited each station, each child is awarded a Silver Spurs trophy as the announcer declares them a winner.

Between all the edge-of-your-seat rides and champion cowboys that visit the arena, the Special Rodeo has to be one of the organization’s favorite events. “One of the best parts about this event is that it stems back to what the Silver Spurs organization is all about,” says Big Boss Gary Ketchum. “We love giving back to our community and it’s great to see the smiling faces of these kids as they have fun doing what we love.”

While your kids might not be able to participate in the Special Rodeo in February, they do have another opportunity to have some rodeo fun. The week before our June rodeo takes place, we partner with a local farm market, Osceola County Grown, and put together a one-day event called Rodeo Day at OCG! So if Rodeo Day isn’t enough for you in February, you can come get your rodeo on in June. While some of the activities are slightly different from the Special Rodeo, your family will still leave smiling and exhausted from all the fun you had!