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Little cowboys called to ride sheep at August rodeo in Grandview

GRANDVIEW - Any tadpole who weighs under 60 pounds and hasn't reached the age of seven is eligible to register to ride a sheep at the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo Friday and Saturday, Aug. 11 and 12.

The Mutton Buster's 7 p.m. ride will be the first event, an introduction to the 7:30 p.m. main rodeo event on those two nights.

"It takes a lot of courage to get up on that animal," said Kay Herman, who, with her husband Dan, are herders of this year's sheep-riding event.

"Sheep look like gentle animals, but it's a little different when they get a kid on their back," she said.

This will be the second time the Mutton Buster's event will be held in Grandview.

"It went real well last year, so we thought we'd try it again," said Kay, adding that children had to be turned away last year because only 12 can ride, six each night.

"It's first come, first served," said Kay.

"As long as they are big enough to sit on a sheep and aren't heavier than 60 pounds," she added.

"Everyone has the same chance and everyone gets a prize," said Dan.

"It would be a little hard to pick a winner because some of the dads are running alongside, holding their kids on," he added.

Last year one three-year-old girl took her ride in stride, more interested in the woolly critter under her than whether dad was going to hold tight enough to keep her from taking a spill.

"She was trying to see if she could get both the sheep's ears to touch," said Dan, laughing.

"They're just cute as can be," said Kay.

The Mutton Buster's event is sponsored by Montana Silversmiths, which provides a free Mutton Buster's patch for every entrant.

"And each gets a trophy, all the same," said Kay.

"And we give each one a piece of baling twine to wrap around the sheep so they can hang onto it," said Dan. "Or they can hang onto the wool," said Kay, noting that the sheep are unsheared so provide a cushy ride for the youngsters.

The 12 successful applicants will be chosen from entry blanks that should be sent to the Hermans, who will choose the first 12 they receive. The winners will be notified, either by phone or mail, whichever time allows. (See entry blank that accompanies this story.)

The riders are to be at the rodeo grounds at 812 Wallace Way in Grandview by 6 p.m. on the night they ride.

Even though they will be participating in the rodeo, the riders have to pay to enter the fairgrounds, just like any other fair-goer, said Kay.

"This is the first step in cowboying," said Kay. "We have three boys who grew up rodeoing and now we have three grandsons growing up rodeoing. They start with sheep, then calves, steers, horses and then the big stuff, bulls," she said.

The Hermans are two of nine rodeo board members who plan and organize the annual event.

"Last year we were in charge of Mutton Buster's and they gave it to us again this year," said Kay, obviously enjoying handling an event that's rather unique at the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo.

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