Sheriff’s Rodeo 2016 puts on a special performance for a special audience

W.C. Mann

Dusty the clown and bronco rider Kody Rinehart pose with a young fan.

CULLMAN – The rodeo's in town!  The annual Cullman County Sheriff's Office Jimmy Arrington Memorial Rodeo is happening this weekend at the Cullman County Agricultural Trade Center.  The event, put on by 4L and Diamond S Rodeo Company and the Professional Cowboy Association, will take place Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 (gates open at 5:30). On Thursday morning, a special audience got a sneak peek and a lot more. 

According to Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry, around 1,000 special needs students and adults from county and city schools, the Margaret Jean Jones Center and the Cullman Child Development Center, plus 400 teachers and volunteers, attended this early event.  They were entertained by Dusty the rodeo clown and Woody from "Toy Story," and watched several regular competitive rodeo events: bronco riding, barrel racing, calf roping, bulldogging (steer wrestling) and team roping.

After the event demonstrations, the audience was invited onto the arena floor to meet the rodeo stars, take a hay ride and try their hands at calf roping and stick horse barrel racing.  Sheriff's deputies and other staff were on hand to assist anyone who needed help getting in and out of the hay trailers or around the dirt arena floor.  Gentry himself took to the arena floor, along with Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo Queen Mary Ashley Rohrscheib, greeting visitors and posing for pictures.

Gentry says that 35-40 deputies were on hand, all of them off-duty officers who were volunteering their time to help out.  Badges and guns help define what law enforcement officers do, but not why they do it.  For the sheriff, events like this are as much part of the department's duties as keeping the peace; both are acts of service to the Cullman community.

Said Gentry, "This is the heart of the sheriff's office.  It's an opportunity to give these kids an experience they may never have otherwise.  It's also a great chance for the community to meet deputies and spend time with them."

One of the crowd favorites was Dusty the rodeo clown.  He joked and sang with kids during the rodeo, and got face-to-face afterward on the arena floor.  A former bull rider, he says rodeo is a family tradition: his father was a rodeo man, and also worked as a clown.  This event is a homecoming for Dusty, whose very first rodeo took place in this same arena 22 years ago.

When asked what his favorite part of the rodeo experience is, he pointed to his interaction with audience members and his ability to make them laugh.  "If you can pick someone out of the crowd who looks like they're having a bad day, and make them smile," he said, "that's the best thing about the whole job.  I love people!"

The rodeo continues with pro events Friday and Saturday evenings.  For more information, visit the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office website at

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