A Day at the Rodeo


Area special needs kids and adults were treated to a rip-roaring time at the rodeo last Saturday during the Day Out at the Ranch at Thorson’s Arena in San Martin. From a petting area put on by the Coyote Crest 4-H, horseback rides and lessons on how to ride and rope accompanied by bluegrass music and barbecue, the day offered opportunities to soak in the fun of the outdoors and offered a taste of country living. CHP Officer Chris Miceli is in his third year of organizing the rodeo.
He works with the nonprofit El Camino Club, a Hollister and Gilroy area California Highway Patrol squad club along with the High School Rodeo District 4.
“The idea is just to put on a fun day with adults and children with special needs,” Miceli said. “A lot of the time when we get these folks out in the community it’s about dealing with their disabilities or their challenges. I think sometimes it’s important to let all that go and have a good time. You have 364 other days to work on what disability you have. Today is just about having fun.”
Miceli found inspiration from the an annual Gilroy Sportsman Chefs fishing event, where special needs individuals participate in a fishing derby. With food donated by Old City Hall Restaurant and Smart and Final, along with an all-volunteer band, the event featured the sounds and smells of the ranch. The band was an improvised set-up, but a cover of Amie by Pure Prairie League sounded sweet to the ears.
“I took the Fishability Days as a guide for what I wanted to do,” Miceli said. “Each of the rodeo stations is designed for people with special needs and the teens from the High School Rodeo District are there to help. All the food today is being cooked by CHP officer Steve Parra.”
In the rodeo arena, volunteers coach participants with replica horses and bulls, practicing their lasso skills and riding abilities on the rocking bull. The dusty, indoor arena was full of laughter, rollicking banjos and the smell of barbecued tri-tip, along with the braying of sheep and the clucking of chickens.
“We show them how to rope, ride the bull even doing the barrel racing,” said Casey Vollin, president of the High School District 4 rodeo club. “It’s great for our kids because it shows them how great they got it. These kids really say they love it.”
The petting area was run by volunteers from the Coyote Crest 4-H who were there to assist the participants to interact with the animals.
“We have children and adults with different abilities come in and experience what petting an animal is like,” April Alger, 17, the Coyote Crest 4-H president said. “We have everything from chickens, sheep, pigs, goats and rabbits.
“Most of these people are coming from the city and they’ve never even seen what an animal is, let alone, pet a goat or a sheep.”
Alger has had an impactful eight-year career in 4-H. After serving in numerous positions on the club’s executive board and is currently a county All-Star Ambassador, which is a team of youths that plan dances, outings and a leadership camp every year.
“My favorite thing to do in 4-H is teaching others, especially about animals,” Alger, who plans to major in environmental science, said. “I’ve done a lot of one-on-ones with members who have gone off to show animals at county fairs. I would really like to become part of the national park rangers. It combines a lot of my passions.”

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