Junior High National Finals Rodeo-Iowa 2014

 

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“Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.” – old cowboy proverb author unknown

8 months spent practicing, working hard, traveling, keeping our horses and children healthy have all led to this one moment in time.  Jake and I standing in awe at the spectacle that is the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Junior High National Finals Rodeo! A compilation, a cross-section, a melding of all the very best junior high students who have competed their hearts out in multiple divisions! Some have bested competitors and friends in several categories, some made here in only one, but they are here and ready to do battle!

Just so you understand why we are in “awe” here is a sample description of what our eyes behold, straight from the ISF web page. No better description could have been penned.

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The internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. It is the true heartbeat of the Midwest, unequaled and reduplicated.

The Iowa State Fair, the inspiration for the original novel State Fair by Iowan Phil Stong, three motion pictures and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical, is without a doubt the country’s most famous state fair.

National media frequently rank the Fair as one of the top events in the country. In 2004, USA Weekend named the event the #2 choice for summer fun in America, topping New York City’s Times Square, Cedar Point Amusement Park Resort in Ohio and Disneyland in California.imagesIMG_0910

Midwest Living magazine named the Fair one of the “Top 30 Things Every Midwesterner Should Experience.” The Fair is also the only fair listed in The New York Times best-selling travel book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and the subsequent travel book, 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before you Die.

Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of Campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings pre-date World War I; many are priceless examples of American exposition-style architecture.

Throughout its history, the Fair has been a unique institution, serving to educate, inform and entertain people from all walks of life. It is an outstanding agricultural showplace, boasting one of the world’s largest livestock shows. Also home to the largest art show in the state, the Fair showcases visual and performing arts with a variety of special exhibits and activities.

We (the California team) have been graciously welcomed to Iowa. The people here are fantastic! Polite, friendly and caring.  The show that has been put together for these IMG_0928kids is without a doubt unrivaled! From the moment we arrived on Saturday each and every contestant (all 1000+ of them) have been treated as if they all had gone pro! Nowhere have I seen such generosity towards giving each and every child “their” moment. Yes at the end of the week there will be winners, and there will be losers, but each child will have had “their” moment in the sun!

It starts with a green lush campground, where care has been made to keep each state together, golf carts have been provided (at a fee) to help travel across these expansive grounds with saddles, feed and nervous competitors.

Moving to the center of the fairgrounds, the entire area is closed of to traffic (golf carts only) to lessen any chances of injuries to spectators, competitors and animals.  Every manufacture is here in one gigantic pavilion, showing the latest in rodeo gear, tack and animal care products! There are numerous raffles, covering clothing, boots, saddles and yes even a new Dodge truck! Practice roping stations are everywhere for fun and another large building is set up inside as a kids zone for competitors and their family members to go play games, shoot pool or practice roping some more!

The California team consisted of the top competitors in their divisions determined at the state level (just as with every other state). This band of misfits have banded together and for those who didn’t know each other they all are becoming fast friends.  Many of the other states are joining up as well cheering each other on and everyone (parents included) seem to be having a great time.

Sunday morning started with a two-hour meeting which filled the main arena. The rules were laid out and policies explained. The grounds are filled with eyes and any infraction will cost a participant the chance to compete! Sitting in the stands you could feel the electricity as the building was filled to capacity with rodeo kids, friends and family! Flags from all the states represented are flying, including Canada and Australia! Each performance is comprised of 5/6 states with next Saturday being the short go!

The first go was Sunday night, it was a real testing of the waters as far as competition goes and man did the kids live up to the hype! The performances put forth were outstanding! Large groups of parents cheering for their states, kids cheering for friends and the ability to watch everything from both arenas on a large split screen television overhead made the events very entertaining for all involved. By the end of the evening it became clear it was definitely going to be a long week but one they all would remember for the rest of their lives!

 

More to come!

 

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Graduation Day

This week has come and gone, a moment in time a memory for recollection. 13 years of life, tied so closely with friends, teachers, sleep overs, field trips, sporting events and many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I cant believe this day arrived so soon and left in such haste. Your school life started out simple enough; tears of separation, happiness upon returning home from a half day of school. Full days and mounds of homework, new friends, old friends, friends who moved, sadness and joy. Skinned knees, new bikes, scooters, baseball, the park. Swim meets, wrestling, cross-country events, awards, disappointment, contentment and successes.

Days where I felt we were losing you, days were we knew it was all going to be alright and days of unbridled pride watching you do what you do. Time spent, heart-broken, filled with sadness as reprimanding you or having to raise my voice while losing my temper as a last resort secretly brought me to my knees. Reflections of my father I choose to leave hidden in darkness. Time wondering if I spent enough time with you, if you needed me and I just didn’t pick up on it or if you are content with the time we have spent together? Happy with how it has all turned out?

Here we sit third row up, middle section staring directly at a stage you shall soon cross with pride. I didn’t sleep last night, worried I would over sleep and miss the opening of this venue to stake out my territory, claim a prime vantage point for this most important of days. 5 am I rose, fed our animals then slipped off into the morning, ensuring our seating success.

It has been a hard year for our family, we have all struggled, physically and emotionally and you son have not been immune. Yet somehow you kept a level head and completed this 13 year journey all on your own.  I sat staring at that stage, wondering how it must feel for you? What emotions are worming their way through your brain?

This is after all a very special day, no pressure or anything. The 100th class to graduate from Dixon High School, The first in our family to head off to college and thirty years to the day from when your father finished high school. To say I am proud of all you have done, accomplished and survived at such a young age is an understatement. You are my hero son, there is nothing more I could ever have asked for in regards to you.

A friend at work asked if I was going to cry during the ceremony, and of course a terse “no” came quick and fast.  Not losing any man points within the confines of my firehouse, no way! In truth, I didn’t cry, but not because any lack of emotion existed, or due to a hardened soul. Instead my chest was filled with immense pride, for you had done it! You graduated high school, you applied to and were accepted by the colleges of your choice, you asked for help when you needed it and handled any issues you felt you could handle alone.  You son don’t need us to hold your hand anymore and that is nothing to cry about! Instead it is a sign of success for us as parents, it is what this entire journey is all about! Creating, molding, testing, and yes being frustrated with this living being, this boy you brought into the world. Hoping and praying in the end you have done all that you can to ensure when he walks out the door he will do the best he can, stand upon his own two feet and find a world not molded by callous misplaced prejudice, but one molded by his own experiences, using your guidance as a key. Nothing more.

You walked across the stage, the principal read your name; cheers from family and friends erupted and echoed through the stands. Cody James Franceschi high school graduate. A summer lay before you, a weight has been lifted and the relaxation of a job well done is definitely showing across your face. I love you son and I always will. Your mom and I have done everything within our power to help create this person you see in the mirror. We know you have become your own man, but know this. The phone is always in your pocket, we will always be at the other end of the line and just because you will no longer be able to walk out your bedroom door to ask us a question doesn’t mean you cannot find a quiet place and call us, anywhere, anytime. For though we have worked hard to get you to this point, your mother and I have countless reams of knowledge to share with you still. In the end my hope is you will still need us, still feel as though you can ask us anything, whether near or far, what ever it takes we will be there. You are our son, there is no other like you and for that we are incredibly thankful to God! We love you…

Now lets talk about the second week of August when you go off to college.

Wait! What is this wet stuff streaming from my eyes? There is something in my eye! There is something in my eye! “sniff sniff”.

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