*This story was published in the July 11th edition of the Hastings Tribune.
CLAY CENTER — The secret to being good at mutton busting is fairly simple: Put on a helmet and hold on for dear life.
At least that’s the best way Dennis Valentine can describe it.
“That’s about all there is to mutton busting,” said Valentine, who is president of the Clay County Fair board. “We’ve been doing mutton busting for about 20 years here at the Clay County Fair.”
Friday night another group of kids came to the fairgrounds in Clay Center to take their chance at mutton busting.
Before the event began, participants weighed in and were given a number. Then boys and girls, some as young as 3 and as old as 9, strapped up their helmets and pre- pared to get ready to ride like the wind.
Each kid was called upon for his or her turn to ride a sheep, which was steadied inside a pen by a rodeo clown just long enough for the child to climb aboard and get a grip. Once the rider appeared to be secure, the animal was released and took off throughout the dirt covered, fenced-in arena. Amid flying dust and gasps from the crowd, most of the riders usually last from 2-6 seconds.
“At first, it feels scary,” participant Ingeline Andersen, 9, said. “But when you get on the sheep, you’re like ‘I got this’ and then you do it.”