The Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo has been a part of Sharolyn Adams’ life for 61 of her 64 years.
Since she was a baby, she’s only missed the rodeo three times: once as a newborn, the year her father died, in 2001, and last year, when she had a broken leg.
Adams, who lives north of Abilene in Dickinson County, grew up attending the rodeo. “It was our family vacation when we were kids,” she said. Her parents, Dean and Marilyn Roles, farmed, so it was hard to get away on trips. She and her brother showed 4-H animals, and they’d come to the fair and rodeo several days. “It was a big thing in our lives.”
In her adult life, Adams lived in Norman, Okla. for a couple of years, and drove up every year for the rodeo. She also lived in Gardner and Beloit, Kan., and made the trip to Abilene during rodeo time.
In 1996, she married her husband, Jerry. They lived near Beloit on his family farm, till they moved to Dickinson County. They bought land and built a new house and farm, where they now live, farming her parents’ ground.
She’s turned her husband into a rodeo fan, too. Since they’ve married, he’s missed only one year of the Abilene rodeo.
Together, they’ve attended other rodeos: Manhattan, Topeka, Junction City, Salina and Beloit and even a bull riding in Kansas City. But none are as good as the Abilene rodeo, she thinks. “You don’t go to a big city to see a great rodeo. You go to Abilene, Kansas,” she said.
The animals are her favorite part of the rodeo and the fair. She and her dad loved to sit and watch the cattle on their farm, and when she and Jerry come to the rodeo, they love to look at the rodeo animals. She would pet them, like she pets every animal she can, but not rodeo animals. “They are working animals,” she said.
She loves the rodeo clown too, and remembers one year when the clown came into the stands and gave her a big smooch on the cheek. He left the white make-up, and she loved it. “I was proud. I got kissed by the clown,” she laughed.
Her dad, Dean, loved the rodeo and the animals, and had a bench by Sterl Hall, where he always sat. When he got older and couldn’t walk as well, he’d sit in his spot and his friends would come to him to visit.
A self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl,” when he passed away in 2001, she couldn’t make herself attend the rodeo that year. “So we went to San Antonio,” Adams said. “We went as far from Kansas as we could get. I couldn’t handle it emotionally. It’s hard every year.”
Adam’s mother, Marilyn Roles, is still gardening and entered baked and canned goods in the Central Kansas Free Fair until three years ago. At the age of 92, she still attends the fair. Roles worked as a volunteer in the flower exhibits several years. “I came by my love of the Abilene fair and rodeo honestly,” she said.
She loves the rodeo fans, too. “I love it when they play the national anthem. Rodeo fans are patriotic people. They want to stand for the flag.”
She feels an affinity with rodeo fans and the Abilene rodeo.
“They’re my people. It gets you excited, going to the rodeo. I love everything about it.”
The 76th Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo will be held August 3-6 in conjunction with the Central Kansas Free Fair in Abilene, Kan. Performances start at 7:30 pm each night. Tickets are $10 in advance and $13 at the gate. Children’s tickets are $7 for ages 4-10. They can be purchased at West’s Country Mart, online at www.CKFF.net and at various local retailers. For more information, visit www.WildBillHickokRodeo.com
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Photo via Wild Bill Hickock Rodeo – Sharolyn Adams (in the polka dots, next to Wild Bill Hickok), has attended the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo nearly every year of her life. Her parents, Dean and Marilyn Roles, brought their daughter to the rodeo, which started the tradition. Photo courtesy Adams.