Madyx Farmer, 7, rides an inflatable bouncing horse during the barrel riding competition at his grandparents’ backyard rodeo party on Sunday in Mattoon.

MATTOON — For two years now, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Jim and Marilyn Kimery’s annual Labor Day weekend tradition of taking their extended family to the Pioneer City Rodeo in Palestine, Illinois.

The Pioneer City Rodeo was canceled in 2020 and the family opted not to attend this year due to lingering coronavirus concerns, but the couple adapted Sunday afternoon by bringing rodeo competitions to their children and grandchildren.

“We decided to have our own makeshift rodeo in the backyard,” Marilyn Kimery said of this surprise party.

Barrel racing

Adrian Morton, 17, rides an inflatable bouncing horse during the barrel riding competition at his grandparents’ backyard rodeo party on Sunday in Mattoon.

Their children and grandchildren stepped through a covered gate into a backyard where the fence was lined with Western decorations and the grass was soon transformed into a rodeo arena. There was also a flag-lined area where Jim Kimery could use a microphone to announce the competitions and commentate on the action.

The couple assigned rodeo competition numbers to their extended family. Their daughter Kasey Farmer competed alongside her husband, Rob, and their sons, 12-year-old Rylan and 7-year-old Madyx. The Kimerys’ other daughter, Brooke Morton, competed with her sons, 17-year-old Adrian and 14-year-old Dallas. Marilyn Kimery’s sister, Cheryl Juszczak, kept score.

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Adults and youngsters alike rode children’s inflatable bouncing horses for barrel racing, inflatable calf roping and bucking bronco competitions, entering the grassy arena through decorated rodeo gates. Some of the riders got knocked off their horses and landed laughing in the grass during the course of the events.

Calf roping

Dallas Morton, 14, rides an inflatable bouncing horse as he prepares to rope an inflatable calf during his grandparents’ backyard rodeo party on Sunday in Mattoon.

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“We spent weeks looking online for all these silly, goofy things,” Marilyn Kimery said of their rodeo animals and decorations. She added that her favorite item was the inflatable horse with the plush cover.

The extended family dined on pulled pork, nachos, and cookies decorated to look like horses, all served up in individual packages with hand sanitizer available nearby.

“Mom and Dad did a great job,” Kasey Farmer exclaimed. She said the backyard rodeo party was the next best thing to being at the Pioneer City Rodeo with her family.

Rodeo announcing

Jim Kimery of Mattoon announces the competitions and commentates on the action during the backyard rodeo party on Sunday at his home in Mattoon. 

Kasey Farmer said it was her 8th birthday wish back in 1993 to go to a rodeo, which started her family’s annual Labor Day tradition of attending the rodeo in Palestine. She said horses and Westerns have always been among her favorite things.

Jim and Marilyn Kimery said they loved cheering for the rodeo riders, laughing with the clowns and having a good time together as a family, so they started staying in Palestine for the weekend to enjoy more of the events. Jim said they plan to return to the rodeo when their COVID-19 safety concerns have eased, but they enjoyed the backyard party in the meantime.

“I loved today. It was the best time ever to see my family having fun,” he said.

Helping hand

Marilyn Kimery lends her grandson, Madyx Farmer, 7, a helping hand during the calf roping competition at the backyard rodeo party on Sunday at her home in Mattoon.

Bucking bronco

Rylan Farmer, 12, tips his hat while riding an inflatable bouncing horse in the bucking bronco competition during his grandparents’ backyard rodeo party on Sunday in Mattoon.

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Contact Rob Stroud at 217-238-6861.

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