ASHLAND — Six seconds was all it took for teenager Ben Manns to become a bull rider. With no training to guide him, Manns rode his first bull at the age of 13 for six seconds and hasn't stopped since.
“Someone told me I wouldn't do it, so I hopped on the bull and rode it,” Manns, now 15, said.
Manns competed Saturday in the 33rd annual Cattleman Days Rodeo in Ashland, where he has lived his whole life. Although his family members don't participate in the sport, Manns dedicates his weekends to bull riding and hopes to continue to do so through college. He has watched the rodeo his whole life and this year, he gets to ride.
For some, the parade and rodeo mean free candy, entertainment and tradition, but for others in Ashland, it represents an opportunity to come together and bond as a community.
The rodeo, sponsored each year by the Cedar Valley Riders and the Ashland Optimists, was preceded by an afternoon parade themed “Honoring Our Military Heroes.” The parade featured several local businesses and community members, each participating with a specific purpose in mind.
A WWII veteran, Samuel Johnson, 86, moved to Ashland in 1966 after his home in Hartsburg burned down. He has participated in the parade for the past eight years. Riding at the front of the parade in the veterans' wagon gives him a chance to honor and remember those with whom he served.
“What comes to my mind are the people I was in service with from the East Coast to the West Coast,” he said. “I enjoy this, with the parade and the rodeo, but the greatest celebration would be to see those people again.”
Hope Walbrecht, general manager of the Ashland Pizza Hut, decided there was no better way to impress the crowd than to theme her restaurant's float “Rodeo Clowns.” Her own face decorated with white and red makeup, Walbrecht and several of her employees honored the theme by dressing as clowns, with the exception of one, who wore a bright yellow, feathered chicken suit to promote Pizza Hut's chicken wings.
“The parade allows us to spend time with the community outside of them coming in as a customer,” Walbrecht said. “It brings in a lot of outsiders, too, which helps the local businesses.”
In her bright yellow T-shirt, black pants and bee earrings, Pam Cafourek, operations manager of the Bee Line convenience store, decorated her float in the theme of “Cowboy Bees.” The elaborate float, which displayed a miniature replica of a convenience store, even brought along a mascot: a brown Dachshund dressed in bee wings and a black cowboy hat. For Cafourek, the annual parade is an opportunity for her newly built business to show interest in the community.
“We are a small, locally owned and operated business, so we like to support the communities we have our stores in,” she said. “It shows them that we care. They give to us, so we like to give back.”