My city boys are not exactly horse wranglers or bull riders by nature, so, last summer, when I heard about Little Boots Rodeo in Elk Grove Village, I was skeptical. How would my kids compete in barrel racing and cow milking? Well, as it turned out, quite well.
This Saturday and Sunday, June 23rd & 24th, little buckaroos age 3-12 can register to “compete” in 12 rodeo-themed events. Participants who complete all events receive an award certificate.
The events are all adapted for kids so the “lasso” is actually a ring toss and the “horse race” takes place on a hobby horse. My older sons were drawn to the mechanical bull “bull riding” and plastic “bow and arrow” competitions. It’s a great mix of activities, appealing to families with kids of different ages. Since this is a feel-good festival, all children walk away winners, no matter what their skill level.
Even if you don’t want to participate in the rodeo events, Little Boots offers a day’s worth of entertainment. Magic shows, costumed characters and professional cowboys all add to the rodeo atmosphere. Kids can take a chance on both duck and pig races, or pet a variety of farm animals in the Petting Zoo.
Many children dressed in full cowboy gear and throughout the day received “Best-Dressed” awards.
“One of the main goals of the festival is for children to experience something that they have never done or seen before,” according to Little Boots’ Director Jack Groat.
Toward that goal, they are adding more events: watch a man being shot from a cannon, take a camel ride, or visit “The Lion King.” Last year we met Svengoolie, who’s scheduled to return again this weekend. We missed the duck races, but I hear Groat and Elk Grove Village’s mayor have a friendly wager going.
Admission to Little Boots is free, although Groat asks that everyone bring a nonperishable food pantry donation. Participants pay $10 each to do all 12 rodeo events and some attractions do have minimal charges.
All proceeds from the rodeo benefit local charities. Last year, Little Boots donated $12,000 to charities in the north and northwest Chicago suburbs.
This original version of this article appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of Going Places. I have added copy and photos for this blog post.
You can find more of my adventures with my sons at Chicago Parent.