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Special needs rodeo camp resumes in Missaukee, honoring legacy of cofounder Brenda VanHouten

Horseback riding is the marquee activity for people with disabilities attending SPURS: Special People Understanding Rodeo Skills.
Date Posted: June 8, 2022

This year we brought back SPURS — Special People Understanding Rodeo Skills — for a fourth time after two years off because of COVID. It was wonderful to resume the event, but with mixed feelings. It was difficult to not have Brenda VanHouten there. (She passed away last summer after contracting COVID.)

May 21 was a beautiful warm sunny day for the event at Hughston’s Cow Camp outside McBain.

Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to be a cowboy for a day, with horseback riding, lassoing and roping, wagon rides, an animal petting area, mechanical bull riding, and a new musical addition with guitars and tambourines!

The Hughston family did an amazing job as usual putting the event together, and Farm Bureau members came from four neighboring counties to help out. There’s no putting on an event like this without a small army of wonderful volunteers from surrounding communities — at least 60 of them this year!

“It is very heartwarming to see so many volunteers come and give of their time,” said Kari Hughston. “Brenda was always there to give a helping hand to anyone who needed one. She would’ve been very proud of this year’s event.”

This year’s SPURS Event was very rewarding for the volunteers even though many of them shed a tear or two!

Agriculture is all around us, to be shared in any event with enthusiasm and joy. All these connections made for a successful and fun event which we plan to continue. It was awesome to see all the big smiles and amazing enthusiasm this year.

Attendees took home a backpack holding some very special mementos, including western-themed pillowcases made by VanHouten’s friends — honoring her memory and her love of sewing.

“Brenda’s dream is still living on,” Hughston said. “I’m sure she was watching with that big smile of hers and proud that SPURS is carrying her spirit forward!”


Ellen Vanderwal is a Jedi-level super volunteer with the Missaukee County Farm Bureau, and earned Michigan Farm Bureau’s 2021 Volunteer of the Year Award.


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