LYON COUNTY FAIR: Mutton or bust

MARSHALL – Mutton Busting: a sport where children in cowboy boots and protective gear are placed on unwitting sheep and challenged to hold on for as long as they can. Think of it as bull riding, but on a much smaller, fluffier scale.

With the continued popularity of rodeos, youth ages 4 to 9 (and that are less than 60 pounds, for the safety of the sheep) were encouraged to join in the fun and to register for the junior riding event at the Lyon County Fair on Friday night.

Near the registration table at the bottom of the grandstand, Ethan Kennedy, 7, was getting fitted with a helmet and vest while his grandmother, Julie Kennedy, registered him for the competition.

“We’ve tried to get him to do it in previous years,” Julie said, “but now this year he was just bound and determined to do it. He even borrowed his boots and hat from his uncle.”

Ethan said he was too excited but wasn’t sure what strategy he was going to use when he got on the sheep.

Keira Korman was one of the two girls in the competition and she was one of the only seasoned mutton busters to compete. She had ridden at a rodeo in Park Rapids and took home third place at the Russell Bandwagon Days rodeo. Her advice to her competitors was to “hold on!”

After a round of saddle bronc riding and a calf tie-down competition, young cowboys and cowgirls in helmets and chest guards lined up at the south side of the show ring to try their luck riding a bucking ewe.

Tyson Buens and his sister, Madison, were the first two competitors to take a turn on a bucking ovine. Tyson said that his favorite part was “getting on the sheep” and that he “held onto its hair” during the ride.

Jayden Meister, 5, of Marshall took home the golden belt buckle Friday night with a score of 72.

He was one of the few contestants to not wear cowboy boots (maybe sneakers can give you an extra advantage?) and utilized a backwards riding technique.

Meister said he had never done anything like it before, but was able to watch his competitors to get an idea of what to expect.

He said he will be proud to wear it and gave some advice to future mutton busters: “Just stay strong and stay on the sheep.”