DAYTON -Today, the Dayton Rodeo brings 9,000 or 10,000 people to town, according to Dave Bills, chairman of the Dayton Rodeo Celebration Committee.
The whole thing originated from three young boys entertaining folks with rope tricks into the town park.
"When I was just a little boy, I always had a rope in my hand," said Allen Porter, one of those original founders, in a telephone interview.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
This painting is one of several displayed on a storefront at 22 Skillet Ave. to commemorate the 2012 Dayton Rodeo’s 75th anniversary, which will begin Friday.
Porter said when Vern Danielson moved to town back when he was a boy, the two of them became fast friends. Porter copied Danielson when he began learning to do trick rope.
"We'd put on shows here and yonder," Porter said. "We put on a trick roping show in Gowrie on the Fourth of July, about 1936, and Ronald Reagan was the emcee. He shook our hands and introduced us."
Yes, that Ronald Reagan.
"He became president of the United States later on," Porter said. "He only got to be president. We got to be cowboys."
As the show grew, Porter, Danielson and Duane Vegors began showing at Porter's father's farm. They built chutes and began to make a real rodeo out of it. Danielson's father suggested they move the event to Labor Day.
"Having it on Labor Day was probably the best day we could have done it. It's been going ever since," Porter said.
Porter moved west and wasn't involved in the Dayton Rodeo for many years. When he came back, he was happy to see how the community had kept it going.
"They recognized a good thing when they saw it," he said. "It took everyone in this community. There's hardly a person in this community or the surrounding communities who hasn't contributed some time and effort to help this rodeo go. It takes a lot of work.
"I'm overly proud of the community for carrying on and making it good."
Porter was grand marshal of the Labor Day parade for the Rodeo's 50th anniversary and will be repeating that roll this weekend.
This year he'll ride a wagon pulled by a horse team instead of on horseback, he said; he hasn't been able to get on a horse since he had back surgery four years ago, at age 90.