Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013, 10:45 pm

Word's Toughest Rodeo ropes in folks both young and old

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By Kevin Smith,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Matthew Johnson, 6, of Geneseo, climbs out of a rodeo clown barrel after being rolled around inside the barrel on the floor of the i wireless Center in Moline on Friday, January 25, 2013. Children and adults got to walk around on the rodeo's dirt floor and interact with the cowboys, clowns and animals before the start of Friday night's event. The World's Toughest Rodeo continues Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the i wireless Center.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Garrett Carlson, 7, of Moline, practices his lasso throwing technique during the World’s Toughest Rodeo preshow at the i wireless Center in Moline on Friday. The free preshow gave children and adults a chance to get close to the rodeo animals, meet the cowboys and try their luck with rodeo roping skills.
MOLINE -- Rodeo-lovers, young and old, gathered on Friday night at the i wireless Center to watch daring cowboys compete at the World's Toughest Rodeo's fourth stop on its winter tour.

Thrill-seekers and animal lovers alike showed their support for some of the nation's top cowboys and cowgirls while enjoying the show of bulls and broncs as a family.

Dave Klindt, of Bettendorf, said he looked forward all year to coming to the rodeo with his 5-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. The family marked its calendar in advance, he said, to catch the excitement of the bull-riding at the rodeo.

Ray Smith, of East Moline, a horse trainer for 40 years, made a point to bring his two 7-year-old grandsons to experience the rodeo.

The family showed up early to get an up-close look at the horses. He said heespecially looked forward to watching the horses in action during the barrel racing.

Ashley Belha, of Thomson, said she expected the barrel racing to be the most exciting event of the night.

"You see the speed and agility of the horses," she added.

Eric Teel, of Buffalo, brought his five sons -- all younger than the age of 10 -- to see the bulls and horses in action.

"This is our second year, so we kind of turned it into a family thing," he said.

Many families said they have been attending rodeos for decades and were sharing the experience with a new generation on Friday night.

"I used to go to the rodeo all the time when I was a kid," said Diane Cox, of Galesburg.

There's a universal appeal to the rodeo, according to the event's announcer, Roger Mooney.While many events are highly competitive, the entire rodeo experience is designed to be fan-centered, he said.

"It doesn't matter if you're 6, 66 or 96," Mr. Mooney said. "The rodeo's got everything."

The cowboys participating at this weekend's event come from throughout the nation, Mr. Mooney said. Many perform about 200 shows per year, at as many as 50 different venues.