For Shayla Ficken and her family, the 25th annual Exceptional Rodeo hosted Friday morning was one of special meaning as it was dedicated to her late husband Billy Ficken, a Missouri State Fair maintenance and grounds-keeping supervisor who was in charge of setting up the rodeo since its inception 1n 1991.
“The rodeo always held a special place in his heart,” she said. “He always held a special place in his heart for people in need.”
Kylie Ficken, Billy and Shayla’s daughter, confirmed Billy’s dedication to the event.
“He was always really excited for this event … excited to see everyone get involved,” she said.
Lucas Ficken, Billy’s son, said that for Billy, the Fair, especially the rodeo, was the highlight of the year.
“He (Billy) always was there to set up for this every year and anything that needed to be done for the event, he made sure it got done,” Lucas said.
About 186 clients of the Center for Human Services in Sedalia and other special needs organizations from around West Central Missouri participated in the rodeo at the Mathewson Center. Members of the the Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Association assisted the clients in performing simulated rodeo games, such as roping a “calf,” riding a “bucking bull,” and lassoing. The MRCA also provided horses and clowns for the event.
Riding the “bucking bull” brought out laughter and joy for Common Good and Natural Living of Marshall client Derrick Davidson.
“It was a lot of fun,” Davidson said, who participated in the rodeo for a second time. “The rodeo is fun.”
Mallory Graves, a lifelong client of CHS, has attended the rodeo since she was a child and said it’s always a fun time for her.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” she said.”I like the dancing and entertainment, especially country line dancing.”
Client Sean Morris, who roped a “calf,” expressed his excitement for the event.
“I love the rodeo,” said Morris, who was attending his third rodeo. “Everybody is nice.”
While the event was indeed exciting for the participants, some CHS staff members and MRCA members also expressed feelings of fulfillment in helping with the event.
“The rodeo gives our clients connections with the community in coming to these types of things,” said Tami Zentner, the lead staff at the Crestwood Group Home for Women.
CHS Manager of Business Development Mark Register said being at the rodeo gives him a different perspective of working with the clients.
“This and events like this gives me a chance to interact with folks other than a work setting,” Register said. “It’s really good for my morale and the other employees of the center.”
Dustin Jilek of the United Rodeo Association, who assisted with the roping events and first time participant in the rodeo, said it was a real “pickup” for his and others’ morale as well.
“I gain a real sense of purpose and enjoyment in volunteering at events like this,” Jilek said.
Doug Hezelbaker, of Kansas, also expressed similar feelings of fulfillment in working with these clients.
“I find this event very enjoyable,” he said. “It’s nice to see everyone so excited.”
His wife, Janna Hazelbaker, a former Missouri resident, said they signed up for the MRCA Rodeo just to be able to participate in the Exceptional Rodeo.
“This is the highlight of their day, month,” Janna said. “I just love seeing all the smiles on everyone’s faces.”
Editor Tim Epperson can be reached at 660-530-0146.