Jack Groat watched a rodeo in Texas many years ago and cringed as kids lost and cried and lost and cried in the many competitions. After watching the competitiveness of the events kids were involved in, Groat swore to himself that he would have a festival and there would “never, ever be a competition.”
So, seven years ago, Groat started the Little Boots Rodeo in Elk Grove. The concept of this rodeo is simple—kids get a punch card for $12 that entitles them to participate in 13 different events. Once they complete the events, they’re officially designated as cowboys or cowgirls.
Every year, the events are changed, and this year the rodeo has brought in a stunt jump and zip line, in addition to its typically odd lineup of events for kids: mechanical bull riding, cow milking, crabbing, shooting gallery, butterfly release and smelling the breath of a dinosaur.
With flying pigs, camel rides and the return of the iconic TV character Svengoolie, the rodeo promises to be a fest like no other, just as Groat had planned all those years ago.
“This is our seventh year and the whole concept is just silly, silly fun,” Groat says. “We don’t use the word ‘race’ and we never, ever have a child who is upset.”
The festival is also geared toward people with disabilities. Each child with a disability gets in free and gets a different colored punch card so they don’t have to wait in lines.
The rodeo runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m. June 21 and noon-6 p.m. June 22. Groat recommends families arrive earlier in the day to beat the crowds.
Proceeds from the event benefit the District 59 Education Foundation, as well as other Elk Grove community organizations.
Little Boots Rodeo
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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