It takes the commitment of volunteers to stage the Elizabeth Stampede and Rodeo each year. Included in the count of about 250 people who dedicate their time to work the rodeo are 35 youths, many of whom volunteer year round.
“We’ve had youth …
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It takes the commitment of volunteers to stage the Elizabeth Stampede and Rodeo each year. Included in the count of about 250 people who dedicate their time to work the rodeo are 35 youths, many of whom volunteer year round.“We’ve had youth volunteers for a number of years,” said Lea Anne Russell, Stampede community relations. “They’d follow their parents, their big brothers, sisters into this great adventure, being able to volunteer. They love the rodeo and the lifestyle, so they kept coming back and staying involved.”Though youth volunteers at the Stampede is nothing new, over the years there has been some uncertainty as to how much of a role they could or should play.“It was really the brain storm of a couple of the youth,” Russell said. “They were trying to figure out ways they could be more involved. Taylor Swisher is the one who spearheaded that.”Taylor is the 13-year old daughter of Traci Swisher, Stampede vice president.“My mom and I were talking about how there were some youth volunteers, and they weren’t sure what to do,” Taylor said. “Some committees weren’t sure what they could do.”Taylor’s conversation with her mother grew into the idea for a new program to organize her fellow youth volunteers at the Stampede, not as a separate group, but as active members of the individual committees.“At first, people weren’t sure if kids could volunteer or if it was just like 16 and up, but I’ve been volunteering for five or six years,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot we can do.”Taylor took the idea to the Stampede board of directors, and it was overwhelmingly accepted. With the help of her mother, who guided her during the first year, Taylor helped organize around 30 youth volunteers.“We put it on Facebook and Instagram. A lot of people my age have Instagram, so we put it there,” she said.Committee chairs recognized that there some jobs that kids should not do, such as working behind the chutes, but out of Taylor’s initiative, organizers began expanding opportunities beyond tasks such as picking up trash.“We have lots of jobs,” Taylor said. “It can be from tickets — ticket ushers or selling tickets — hospitality, serving or refilling lemonade or tea.”Now in its second year, Taylor’s project has grown to include nearly three dozen youth volunteers, and some Stampede youth work extends beyond the rodeo, including chamber of commerce events. This year, they are hoping to collaborate with the Elbert County Sherriff’s Office to help with the bike-safety rodeo in July.“We consider them members of our rodeo team and the rodeo family, and encourage them to help find whatever they’re passionate about,” Russel said. “One of the things we recognize is that we have to figure out a way to get our youth more involved in this way of life or its going to go away.”
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