Braden Shepka's first rodeo featured six cowboys, three cowgirls, bulls, broncos, calves and even a rodeo clown clad in suspenders and oversized jeans.
Just the countdown to the competition, held Saturday during the Kane County Fair in St. Charles, was enough to get 5-year-old Braden, of Minooka, excited.
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"Here's some cowboy music," he said to his grandparents, Marge and John Stumpf of Montgomery, as country tunes aired over the loudspeaker at the fairgrounds' grandstands.
The rodeo, put on Saturday afternoon and evening by Hebron-based Big Hat Rodeo, brought stars of the sport to the fair for two hours of bareback riding, tie-down roping and steer wrestling.
Announcer Matt McGee explained the ins and outs of the events before cowboys and cowgirls attempted each feat, often racing the clock.
The rodeo kicked off with bareback riding, challenging each competitor to stay on a bucking bronco without a saddle for eight seconds while getting judged for style.
Spectators like Braden added their two cents to McGee's explanations of the excitement. "He's naked," Braden said as a dark horse without a saddle or rider trotted around the arena.
A crowd of about 300 at the afternoon show clapped and cheered during the second rodeo event as cowboys lassoed a rope around a calf's neck, wrestled it to the ground and tied together its legs all in eight to 12 seconds. In that event, the calf is let out of the gate first, followed by the cowboy.
"Every advantage in the sport of rodeo goes to the livestock," McGee said.
Rodeo clown Dusty Myers entertained viewers between events with family-friendly skits about cops, underwear and singing duets. His jokes could be heard throughout the fairgrounds at Lincoln Highway and Randall Road as fairgoers watched swimming pigs, toured displays of 4H club projects, got moving on carnival rides and enjoyed corn dogs and chicken on a stick.
Also enjoying a first fair experience was 4-year-old Maddie Cedeno of Chicago. Her parents, Angel and Wendy, took Maddie to the fair to introduce her to farm animals like chickens and sheep.
She's new to this; she's a city girl," Wendy Cedeno said. "But I'm from Louisiana. I grew up with 4H, so this is pretty cool to see again."
The Kane County Fair continues noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.