FELLSMERE — When Sebastian River Middle School math teacher Jodi Hergott was asked if she’d be going to the Cracker Day Rodeo, she wasn’t sure if she was going to have to write up the students for making a derogatory comment. The recent New York transplant soon realized that “Cracker” is a term of pride and tradition, especially for certain Floridians.
“I thought they were kidding with me,” Hergott said of the students in one of her classes.
Curious, she braved the biting and chilly winds to watch the 58th annual Cracker Day Rodeo at the Fellsmere Riding Club to see what it was all about.
“It is, and more,” she said of what she imagined the rodeo would be. What impressed her the most was the bravery shown amongst the young children who participated in the Mutton Bustin’ competition – sheep riding for those 7 and younger.
“I thought they were adorable,” Hergott said of the children.
One of the organizers for the rodeo, Sharon Anderson, said she fielded more than a half dozen calls Sunday morning from those wondering if the event would go on. A severe thunderstorm moved through Indian River County during the morning and could have flooded the arena had it stuck around.
“We have never, ever cancelled the Cracker Day Rodeo,” Anderson said, explaining that riders who fear riding in a bit of rain have no business competing in the rodeo.
The rodeo serves as a fundraiser for the Fellsmere Riding Club and a celebration of all things cowboy. The event featured Mutton Bustin’, Bull Riding and Barrel Racing.
“It’s great,” said Josh Schaffner, who brought his son, Tristen, to the rodeo. “You can’t beat it.”
For both, the best part of the rodeo is the bull riding – though for different reasons.
The elder Schaffner said the adrenaline is what makes bull riding so exciting – the anticipation and anxiety, the question of whether the rider will be able to hold on or not.
The younger Schaffner said he likes to watch the bulls.
Tristen Schaffner said his friend Greg Rone was competing in the bull riding event.
Every year “the bulls get more and more exciting,” he said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Fellsmere Riding Club can call (772) 473-0989 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.