Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Rodeo - Dayton Iowa

The Labor Day Rodeo was where I spent a ton of Labor Days growing up in Iowa. This is a small but mighty rodeo. This year was the 71st year. My mother and her sisters rode in the rodeo when they were teens and young women.

Around 1955, my Mom had been dating my Dad for a spell. They were in Ames, Iowa at the time. They were separated during the summer what with Dad moving back to Humboldt, IA for the time period. They wrote each other every day. Dad loved Mom's letters. Mom didn't receive Dad's letters. Long story inolving a landlady, another woman with the same name, mail being held, etc.

Mom was a bit upset about not hearing from Dad but soldiered on. Dad was a bit frantic because he just hadn't heard from her. But there was one thing Dad knew: His gal would be at the Labor Day Rodeo! So he grabbed his brother and drove to Dayton.

My mother and her sisters were riding in the parade when suddenly Dad darted out into the parade. It was quite a reunion I can tell you. And a few months later resulted in their marriage and it lasted 51 years until Dad's death in 2007. Actually I guess it still continues.

When I was little that rodeo was one of the highlights of our summer. You see, the parade started around 10:00 and we'd ride in from my grandparent's farm and get good seats on the side of the road. The parade always included marching bands from 2 or 3 schools. And a parade of new tractors and new cars from the local dealerships.

And floats! One year my grandmother was on the Ladies Aid Society float. They wrapped bandages for missions. I think that was the name of the society. Anyway, that was cool. A lot of the floats had people throwing candy from them so that was great, too.

And of course there were horses. Trailriding groups. And show groups. And all those Queens! Queen of the Rodeo, of course and all her princesses, but you'd see a lot of Dairy Queens and Beef Queens and all sorts of commodity queens there too. I always thought they were total glamour.

Afternoons, of course, were for the rodeo and fair. We'd usually picnic first to save money. Later, Grandma moved into town so we'd lunch at her place. There were rides at the fair and those were great, but the rodeo was coolest.

You'd sit down on wood bleachers and every year the same joke started off the festivities. "Did everybody get the free gum? If you didn't get yours yet, just check under the seat where some was left for you." I recall one among us who had to be convinced that the gum should not actually be chewed.

The rodeo had a parade into it with more glamorous queens. And roping horses and calves and bull-riding. And those clowns just about scared me to death. Uffdah!

I went to that rodeo off and on from the time I was very little into my young adulthood. I haven't been back since my 20s but, man, those memories are precious to me.

If you happen to be near Dayton, IA around Labor Day I strongly urge you to check out this small slice of America.


Unknown said...

I wish I could go to that rodeo. It sounds great. I love the hometown feel of your post, Bookie. Makes me long for the Apollo Moonlanding Festival. (sigh)

zirelda said...

Oh that sounds so neat. I want to go. I love floats and bands.. Especially the drums. Most especially the drums.