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Bulls, barrels, mutton and mini’s raise money in Kiowa, Colo.

5th annual Responder Relief Rodeo draws big community support

Story and photos by Lincoln Rogers
for The Fence Post

The fifth annual Responder Relief Rodeo took place on Saturday night (Aug. 21, 2021) at the Elbert County Fairgrounds in Kiowa, Colo., and the community came out to support it in larger numbers than the previous four years had ever seen. The bull riding, barrel racing, mutton busting, and mini bulls event raised funds for the Responder Relief Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization that provides financial assistance to families of fallen first responders and to those first responders who have been critically injured. With an estimate of the crowd to be somewhere between 800-1,000 people, organizers were enthusiastic with the numbers.

Covered stands at the Elbert County Fairgrounds hold just a portion of the estimated 800-1,000 people that showed up in Kiowa, Colo., to attend and support the fifth annual Responder Relief Rodeo on Saturday Aug. 21, 2021.

“We were very, very pleased,” said Mark Maykowski, president of the Responder Relief Foundation. “It was a very good crowd for this area.”

The full stands were entertained throughout the evening by 40-plus bull riders, eight barrel racers, 24 mutton busters, and 10 mini bull riders. It started with mutton busting, and signups for the family-oriented event gave an early signal of what the response to the rodeo would be on Saturday night.



Mutton Busting competitors were corralled into the arena by numerous rodeo queens in order to receive their prizes after taking part in the fifth annual Responder Relief Rodeo on Aug. 21, 2021 in Kiowa, Colo. Organizers say they filled up the popular children's event with 24 competitors two weeks before the date of the rodeo.

“We were full with mutton busting two weeks before the rodeo,” said Maykowski. “We ran 24 this year. We are obviously looking to expand that, because kids are dynamite.”

The kids were also dynamite in another event designed to entertain. Between flights of regular bull riding, Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls brought their fully mature — but smaller — bulls and paired them up with appropriately aged contestants in a contest that brought the loudest cheers of the night. With a 5 and under category (Walk Trot) and multiple other categories that ranged up to 14 years old, the mini bulls and the young people aboard them put on a good show.



“That was incredible,” said Maykowski of the mini bulls. “We want to definitely do those again.”

In the Mini Bulls competition, the Walk Trot category is for 5 years old and under. Mini Bull suppliers Cory Hazen, right of bull, and Duncan Cornell, left of bull, of Bijou Buckers Mini Bulls make sure the ride for young Aspen Yowell is smooth in the crowd pleasing mini bull riding exhibition.

MAIN EVENT

The main draw of the evening was the big bulls, and the action did not disappoint. Event organizers brought in stock contractor Ty Rinaldo and his Colorado-based TZ Bucking Bulls company to produce the 2021 rodeo and they were pleased with the results.

Bulls like this one from stock contractor TZ Bucking Bulls supplied plenty of action during and after each bull ride in the fifth annual Responder Relief Rodeo in Kiowa, Colo., (Saturday Aug. 21, 2021). Once the rider was off, many bulls went looking for anything or anyone else in the arena or near the rails to challenge. "It was a great event and I am honored to be a part of it," said TZ Bucking Bulls stock contractor Ty Rinaldo.

“That is what happens when you bring in PBR and PRCA quality animals,” said Maykowski in reference to the action of ornery bulls tossing their riders and charging throughout the arena looking for other targets. “This was our first year with (TZ Bucking Bulls) and it was an absolutely dynamite upgrade.”

“I was honored to be a part of it,” said Rinaldo. “We had great riders and a great set of bulls (and) we made the whistle on some bulls.”

On top of the rodeo action, the mission of helping families of fallen first responders and those who are critically injured seemed to resonate not only with the public who showed up in large numbers, but with those who were part of the rodeo.

“What a great tribute to fallen heroes,” said Rinaldo about the focus of the event. “They worked really hard to try to help the families of fallen heroes and that is greatly appreciated. That means a lot that it goes to help families of fallen police officers.”

Showing more concern for protecting the cowboy than for his own safety, bull fighter Jacob Rutherford leapt on the back of this bull to reach over and free the hand of a bull rider caught up and in jeopardy from the spinning bull. "He jumped right in there and helped people getting into a mess," said stock contractor Ty Rinaldo about his selfless bull fighter. "Those are heroes for sure."

The Responder Relief Foundation’s origins date back to a 2016 tragedy in Park County Colorado, where one deputy was killed and another critically injured (shot seven times) while serving an eviction note. Maykoswki’s brother-in-law was the deputy shot multiple times, and Maykowski witnessed firsthand the lack of resources available to help families of fallen first responders and those who are critically injured. It was after that experience that the foundation was created and a rodeo to raise funds was conceived.

ALL IN

The good crowd in 2021, along with the best sponsor support in the event’s five-year history, combined to help raise around $12,000. Unlike many other charities that only put a portion of an event’s proceeds directly towards their mission, the Responder Relief Foundation goes all in.

The top eight finishers in the barrel racing slack came back to compete for first place in the middle of the fifth annual Responder Relief Rodeo at the Elbert County Fairgrounds on Aug. 21, 2021. Sierra Rucker sped to the win with a time of 18.535 seconds.

“With our foundation and rodeo, we (personally) make no money doing this,” emphasized Maykowski. “We put it all — 100% — to the first responders. Not a percentage of the proceeds; all of it. As near as I know, we are the only ones that do that.”

As a result of the community response that made it the best year ever, Maykowski stated they are looking to expand.

A bull fighter found himself gaining a new perspective after being tossed in the air by one of the bulls in the 2021 Responder Relief Rodeo in Kiowa, Colo., on Aug, 21, 2021. Eleven stock contractors brought three bulls each, and most of them were rank beasts with bad attitudes. While this bullfighter was described as "very sore the next day," he is all right.

“It has been growing each year and we finally have gotten big enough now that we are looking at a two day event and growing it even further,” he said. While they wish to expand, they also must try to make the best decisions possible regarding their financial duty to the foundation’s mission. “(There are) other things you can look at when you do that,” Maykowski added. “We can look at bringing a band in to do a concert on the Friday night event. There are a lot of things we can look at with an expansion.”

Added to the enthusiasm of 2021’s spectators is a commitment from the man supplying the bulls.

The American Flag, backed by flags supporting first responders and law enforcement were part of the grand entry ceremony before the start of action in the fifth annual Responder Relief Rodeo in Kiowa, Colo., on Saturday Aug. 21, 2021. The event raises funds for the Responder Relief Foundation, a 501(c)3 which helps families of fallen first responders, as well as first responders who are critically injured.

“I would love to come back,” said Rinaldo about being a part of the rodeo’s future. “It was a great event and I am honored to be a part of it and can’t wait to work together with them in the future.”

“Very, very, very pleased,” said Maykowski in reaction to 2021’s successful event. “We hold some other events (and) announce all our events on our facebook page. We are not just stuck in rodeo, but the rodeo is definitely our mainstay event.”

Flags prominently honoring first responders were carried into the arena at the start of the 5th annual Responder Relief Rodeo in Kiowa, Colo. The popular bull riding, barrel racing, and mini bull riding event raised funds for the Responder Relief Foundation, that helps families of fallen first responders, along with helping first responders that have been critically injured.

For more information on the Responder Relief Foundation, you can visit their website at https://www.b4tf.net — call them at (303) 500-5275 — find them on facebook — or send an email to buckin4thefallen@outlook.com.

The crowd showed up for the main bull riding, but the loudest cheers of the night were for the Mini Bull competitors, who took part in the rodeo as an entertainment exhibition. In this photo, Ethan Geiger of Bellvue, Colo., celebrates a successful ride aboard a Bijou Buckers Mini Bull as he stands on the top rail of the arena fence and soaks up the crowd's applause.

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