Dust is already flying as the Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo opens its gates Friday and Saturday nights. Thursday, though, there was a special audience and a day designed just for them.
One rodeo rider is especially proud. Mark Turner is chomping at the bit to talk about his job at the rodeo.
“Tell me what you’re going to do with the rodeo,” WAAY 31 asked. Before we could get the question out, Turner started telling us, “I’ll be doing the opening ceremony!”
Mark, who has special needs, was first out of the gates at Thursday’s 2018 Special Needs Rodeo. He was so excited to make -- what they call on the rodeo circuit -- his grand entry.
“I can’t wait to hold the flag to be in the opening ceremony,” he said with a huge smile on his face.
The 40-year-old saddled up and proudly hoisted the American flag. “Is that exciting?” we asked. “Yes,” he said. Then, we asked Mark, “What have people been telling you about it?”. Without hesitation, he told us, “They’re proud of me!”.
No one’s more proud than Mark’s family. His extended family includes Andrea Faulk of the Pine Ridge Day Camp and Equestrian Center in Somerville.
“We are so proud of Mark,” Andrea told WAAY 31. “I have been involved with the Special Needs Rodeo since it first started. And this year, we’re expecting over 1,800.”
That’s 1,800 people with special needs. Kids and adults. By all accounts, this is the most heartwarming event at the annual Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo.
You’d have a hard to finding anyone here without a big smile.
“And I’m really proud Mark’s getting to be a part of it because he works hard all year and he looks forward to it,” Andrea explained. Horseback riding is Mark’s passion. “He’s just all about horses,” she said.
Besides the rodeo, Mark also rides with the Alabama Special Olympics team. “He’s one of our most advanced riders,” Andrea bragged. “So, he can ride independently without someone walking with him. He can ride on his own. So, he’s been doing it for a while and has excelled.”
And before the dust ever settles from this year’s rodeo Mark has his sights set on his next opening ceremony. Andrea told us, “From the time the rodeo ends, he’s already looking forward to it the next year.”
We asked Mark if people have been giving him any advice about his high-profile rodeo ride. He told us simply, “They said I’m doing a good job.”
An understatement if there ever was one.