Rodeo setup

Setup is under way in Ottumwa Park for Saturday's Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce Rodeo.

OTTUMWA — Iowa’s best one-day rodeo returns to Ottumwa Saturday, but organizers are hoping for more.

“We’re shooting to be the best overall rodeo and best one-day rodeo,” said Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shea Greiner of the organization’s event. “We already have over 400 contestants, which is about 60 more than last year.”

Greiner said contestants are coming from Nebraska, the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and “of course, Iowa. We have about a five-state radius,” she said.

The timing of the rodeo is playing into the hands of organizers. “It’s Cowboy Christmas Week,” Greiner said, meaning that there are several rodeos happening in the time frame. “It’s easy for contestants to do two or three rodeos at a time.”

For example, contestants can come to Ottumwa and participate in the 9 a.m. slack and head over to nearby rodeos, such as Bloomfield or Leon, for the evening performance. “The morning slack is really attractive to contestants” for that reason, Greiner said. Or they can hit one of the other rodeos earlier and come to Ottumwa for the 7 p.m. performance slot.

Another aspect that helps the rodeo grow each year is that it’s triple-sanctioned. “That’s why we have 400 contestants,” Greiner said of the event’s third year. The Iowa Rodeo Cowboy Association award of the best one-day rodeo in 2018 helps, too. “Us winning that really put us on the map,” Greiner said.

While rodeo events make up the bulk of the day, there will be more going on in the Ottumwa Park grounds. Mutton busting sign-ups begin at 4:30 p.m. with the event at 5 p.m. “You have to be 75 pounds or less and you must bring your own helmet,” Greiner said. Riding helmets or a bicycle helmet suffices for that, she noted.

Food trucks will be available on site, and a beer garden will be set up. If you’re looking to escape the heat, the Iowa Corn Growers Association will have a couple of air-conditioned trailers set up for people to tour and learn about corn and ethanol.

Events will center around the former horse arena in the park. The chamber will be busy leading setup over the next couple of days to get ready for the big event. “Everything you see there is built from scratch,” Greiner said.

But to her, the event is about providing the community with a different event and showing Ottumwa off to others.

“It’s a great family fun event. It’s something new to bring to Ottumwa,” she said. “All the rodeo contestants come to the heart of Ottumwa and see what we have to offer.”

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at tgoldizen@ottumwacourier.com or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.

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Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's magazine editor, leading production of "Ottumwa Life," the award-winning "Business People" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.