Rodeo poster honors special needs children

By Valerie Shelton

For over 20 years, Clovis artist Claudia Fletcher has designed the annual Clovis Rodeo poster, but this year’s 101st Rodeo poster depicts a different scene than that of the typical cowboy on a bucking horse or bull.

Rather than use another action shot, Fletcher said she and Clovis Rodeo Association Director Ron Dunbar collaborated on creating a poster that would honor the annual special needs kids’ rodeo put on in conjunction with non-profit Break the Barriers right before the final professional rodeo show on Sunday.

“I think everybody loves the action shots, but I’ve had a good response from this poster,” Fletcher said. “People like it because it’s an important thing the rodeo does. They’ve had this special kids’ rodeo for years and it’s good to recognize all the aspects of the rodeo when coming up with an idea for the poster. It’s nice to feature the bucking horses and bucking bulls every year, but this is an important part of the rodeo too. It’s all about giving back and taking care of our people. This is what rodeo and the western way of life is all about.”

Fletcher said she and Dunbar worked to get the representation of the special kids’ rodeo just right. They looked through over 200 photos and initially decided to create a poster that would show all four of the special needs rodeo events. The rough draft of the design was too busy and may have taken her months to get right, so instead, they narrowed it down to two events—the roping of the fake bull and barrel racing.

“It would have been nice to include the other two events, one where the kids ride a fake bucking horse and one where they ride the fake bucking bull, but it was better to simplify it,” Fletcher said. “In this final poster, I had to do nine portraits, and the smaller they are, the more difficult it is to get the faces right. It’s good we decided to just focus on the two events and get the concept across.”

In addition to the paintings of the special needs kids with their professional rodeo cowboys association (PRCA) partners, Dunbar came up with the idea to add the saying “Ride ‘Em, Rope ‘Em, Celebrate Kids” at the top of the poster.

Dunbar said he and Fletcher worked hard on this poster because of its significance to the kids in the Break the Barriers program.

“We’ve teamed up with Break the Barriers for several years and that is how we give back in the community,” Dunbar said. “This event is a big part of the rodeo, so it was time we dedicated the poster to it.”

Clovis Rodeo Association Director Radar Ryan, who works closely with the Break the Barriers special kids’ rodeo event, said he is glad Dunbar and Fletcher honored the program this year.

“We haven’t recognized the program in several years, so now was a good time to do this,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the rodeo is all about family and the special needs event highlights that. About 30 special needs kids participate each year. Unlike other rodeos, the kids aren’t competing, but are just out there to have fun and each one is recognized at the end. Aside from hosting the event, the Rodeo Association also donates $1,000 to Break the Barriers.

Break the Barriers is an extremely deserving organization, Ryan said.

“They have a lot of different activities for special needs kids, but they also serve kids in the community in general,” Ryan said. “My nephew participated in their karate class and enjoyed it. That is just one of many things they do for local kids.”

Ryan has been involved with the special kids’ rodeo since he became a member of the Rodeo Association in 1992 and he said he can’t imagine not being a part of the event.

“I think I get more out of it than the kids do,” Ryan said. “When I see them smile and see their parents smile, it touches my heart.”

Kelly Phebus, a longtime member of the Clovis Rodeo Association, took the photos Fletcher referenced in creating the poster and said she was pleasantly surprised to see the special needs rodeo honored this year.

“I’ve been involved with the rodeo for many years,” Phebus said. “My dad served on the board of directors for the Clovis Rodeo Association for a long time, starting in 1953, and my grandfather was on the board before that dating back to the 30s, so rodeo has been a part of my life and family traditions forever. While this event has been around for a long time, I don’t believe it’s had this kind of recognition before and I’m really happy it’s being honored now.”