JASPER COUNTY FAIR: Grabbin' the bull by the horns

·3 min read

Jul. 15—When fairgoers gather in the arena for the annual Jasper County Fair Rodeo, they're not only getting a fun entertainment experience, they're paying tribute to a young man who departed them way too early in his life. The Ty Carlson Memorial Bull Ride honors the eponymous rider and his passion for the sport of rodeo.

The 19-year-old from Colfax was killed in a single-vehicle accident north of town in 2017. Shortly after, Todd and Kari Carlson organized the bull ride in his name. At the start of every event, Ty's family members enter the arena on their horses. Ty's horse trots along beside them and remains saddled but riderless.

Anyone who has attended the rodeo and bull ride will know a riderless horse is a symbol of a fallen warrior. Ty was a warrior in the sport of rodeo and in life, striving with each ride to be better and work harder. Crowds who gather during the bull ride can feel the passion Ty felt about the sport.

Ty was an avid rodeo enthusiast ever since he could straddle a sheep. When he grew older, the natural born rider saddled steers and bulls. Shortly after the accident, the Carlsons and rodeo community pulled together to host the first memorial ride and create scholarships in Ty's honor.

Alan Guy, a fair board member who has organized the rodeo for the past few years, said the Carlson family has become very involved with the fair since the introduction of the rodeo and bull ride. Guy's goal for the event has always been to improve community impact and give folks a reason to celebrate the county.

"How do we get more people to go: 'Man, we gotta go to the county fair! It's a wonderful time!' And I think (the rodeo and bull ride) have helped. We even reach people who aren't local," Guy said of the now five-year event. "It's kind of nice to see it grow, even if it's little by little."

In 2021, the rodeo and memorial bull ride were held during the fair, whereas in the past it was scheduled as a kickoff event or pre-fair promotion. Guy said then that volunteers wanted more entertainment options for fair visitors. Apparently so did fairgoers by the looks of those long lines of people waiting to get in last year.

"We were more than impressed," Guy said. "We had a fantastic turnout last year. I think we were all optimistic. It made sense and it seemed like it would work very well. When that night happened, we were thrilled. Just a phenomenal turnout with lots of people. Which is exactly what we wanted."

It got people to the fairgrounds. Whether it was the promise of entertainment or the community wanting to support the memory of a fellow Jasper County resident (or a mixture of both), the rodeo and bull ride continues to draw crowds. This year, the rodeo will be held 7 p.m. Friday, July 15.

Typically held for the weekend, the rodeo and bull ride is moving up a day from its usual weekend schedule. Board members hope the rodeo will kickstart the fair a day early. Usually the crowds start piling in on the weekend, but now they have even more reason to come out on a Friday night.

"By Saturday and Sunday you've really hit the ground running," Guy said. "We're kind of throwing that out the window by moving a big event to the first night ... We have kind of added another night to fair. It's a little shake up now. But we'll tackle it and we'll get through it. It'll be good. And we're so excited!"

Of course! After all, it's not their first rodeo.