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2,000 Tucson-area kids get taste of rodeo life

Citizen Staff Writer



Penny Conway is helping turn the Tucson Rodeo into a learning environment for local kids.

The important message Conway, who works for the “Cowboys for Kids” program, hopes the children take away from field trips to the Tucson Rodeo this week is how to “cowboy up.”

“The kids get really moved by (the Western culture and rodeo) so I (talk to them about that first),” Conway said. “Then I give the main message, which is the drug and gang prevention.”

“Using the ways of the West to find the way to the heart.”

Conway taught about 2,000 kids from various elementary schools Monday basics of the rodeo, from the events to the equipment used.

She also had team ropers Justin Parrish and Cody Doesher explain what it’s like to be a cowboy.

Then the kids got into the true message of the day, as Conway, along with the help of Parrish and Doesher, told the kids about how the friends you choose to hang out with and the choices you make early can affect the way you live your life.

“I want to make the best choices in my life and I want to guide people, especially young people to make the best choice in life,” Doesher said.

“Because being young there’s a lot of choices you’re going to have to make for the rest of your life. I chose rodeo to make my living, a lot of people choose football, and for some people they choose concrete and construction.”

As part of her program, Conway travels to rodeos in 22 states. Last year she spoke to close to 70,000 kids while teaching them what she considers a culture that is being lost in today’s world.

“There are five to six generations removed from kids having somebody that was on the farm or ranch,” said Conway, who has been working in the program for 18 years and coming to the Tucson Rodeo for the past 16 years.

“The cowboy culture, they don’t get it. It’s getting so it’s a lost culture. They don’t understand anything about it or the rodeo. This way we are helping to make fans.”

Ochoa Elementary kindergarten teacher Susan Shaw sees the field trip as an opportunity for the kids to take in the history and the background of the rodeo.

“I think being exposed to the actual experience gives them more hands-on knowledge to be able to relate to what they are reading and what they are talking about it,” Shaw said. “What rodeo is and being a cowboy, they will have something to relate to.”

Shaw plans on taking the experience one step further for her students by having a parent who happens to be a champion bull rider come in and speak to the class, while bringing in the equipment and demonstrating how it works.

“Now that they have experienced it, now I can take them back and we can put their real experiences to work,” Shaw said.

The children took away plenty of information to digest, but they still had time for a lot of fun.

“(I liked it) when the cows were running away from the horse,” said Marana first-grader Cody Lynn about what she liked at the rodeo Monday.

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