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Impressions from a rodeo

WARNING: This column will probably offend a few of you. It certainly won’t be considered politically correct by some. But because this is being written during the Independence Day holiday and the experience had such an impact on me, I felt like sharing it anyway…There has been so much press about political correctness in America and about the removal of any reference to God from every aspect of our public lives – from our schools, our buildings and our daily lives. Because of the exposure that all of this has gotten, what happened was really quite surprising to me, and yet very refreshing.

At the last minute, my wife and I decided to go to the annual Backdraft Rodeo, sponsored by our small town’s fire protection district. This was a full-blown rodeo, one of the stops on the Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Association tour. I would not be considered a rodeo fan, but it was a beautiful evening and it sounded entertaining.

What I expected was a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls doing calf roping and bronc busting and bull riding. That was all there and it was well produced. What I didn’t expect was the patriotism and the respect for God and country that was unabashedly displayed.

Because this was sponsored by, and benefitted, our fire department, they had all of their equipment on display as you entered the grounds. Their large hook and ladder unit was fully extended and displaying a huge American flag suspended from the end of the ladder. Firefighters were working as ushers and ticket takers and greeting fans.

The event started with a tribute to firefighters who have perished, and a moment of silence for a Marine from our town who died in the Middle East. This was followed by the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance by the entire crowd – with the announcer adding emphasis to the phrase ‘one nation, under God….” Following the singing of the national anthem, where all men were asked to ‘remove cover’ (take off their hats), the announcer asked the audience to bow their heads for a prayer.

It was not a politically correct prayer. It was a prayer to God, and called on the Lord to protect the participants, protect the audience and protect the nation. It was spoken with passion, and the entire audience bowed in respect.

The whole experience seemed so out of character with what we have been exposed to by the media, with what some organizations would have us believe is what America should be. To me, this was a strong example of the principles America was founded on and proves to me that while many politicians and so-called leaders of our country are grousing about, many Americans are still patriotic and God-fearing.

It also caused me to re-examine what the “Fourth of July” has become in our nation. Just the fact that it is now commonly referred to as the “Fourth of July” rather than Independence Day is an indicator in itself. Have we as a nation forgotten the real reason for the picnics and fireworks? Have we forgotten the sacrifices made by our founding fathers to gain our independence so long ago?

I have one friend who has a tradition of gathering his family together on Independence Day and reading aloud the Declaration of Independence. I wonder how many others take that moment to recognize the significance of this day.

As I sat sipping a glass of wine, watching the sun set over one of our favorite lakeside wineries, the band started playing “God Bless America.” Without any urging, the entire crowd stood and sang along. Maybe there is hope for us.

See you on the show floor.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 30 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive. He is a partner in the tradeshow and event marketing firm Reveal. He can be reached at jobermeyer@revealexhibits.com.

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