For just the second time, Granite Falls resident Greg Vos will serve as Grand Marshall for the annual Western Fest Grand Parade. Greg, who recently turned 90 years old, says that his selection is a great honor.
Greg was born and raised in Slayton before moving to Granite Falls in 1961 and is one of the original founders of the Minnesota State High School Rodeo Association (MNSHRA). He grew up on a farm, and cites his early exposure to animals as a reason for him becoming interested in rodeos.
He and his brother would spend time breaking horses, a skill that would serve him well later on. He says the trick is all about knowing the horse, adding that riders need to concentrate on the animal’s head and not the ground.
The first high school rodeo event was organized in 1956 in Walnut Grove. Although the rodeo attracted only 28 contestants, his dedication and enthusiasm helped grow the program. Today, hundreds of students participate in state competitions and events every year.
Greg acknowledges that although there are certainly risks, rodeo is not as dangerous as it might appear.
His wife of 64 years, Ardyth, didn’t seemed particularly convinced, explaining that she was always a “nervous wreck” whenever he competed. She said that she never had the natural gift for rodeo that her husband seems to have.
“It’s in the blood, just not my blood,” she said, slightly relieved. Greg quipped that he “tried to give her a blood transfusion” to help, though with little effect. Nevertheless, Ardyth has been by his side consistently throughout his many years of riding, judging, and spectating.
Although Greg hasn’t ridden in many years, his passion for the sport has been passed down to his children, grandchildren, and even his great-grandchildren. He says that he is “very thankful” for having such a close knit family, and follows the younger generations’ competitions closely.
Greg’s daughter Jill competes in barrel racing competitions and won an eighth saddle this spring for her efforts the past year. Jill’s daughter Lindsey is also a barrel racer, as is Jills’ eight-year-old granddaughter (and Greg’s great-granddaughter) Charleigh Rose. Recently, Charleigh Rose won a third saddle for her performances in the PeeWee divisions. Greg’s son Wade has also judged the Western Fest rodeo several times in addition to judging local college and high school competitions. Wade’s daughter Sarah is a member of the South Dakota State University rodeo team in Brookings, and competes in the goat tying event.
Although much has changed since he first started riding (Greg said that rodeo is more like a professional sport now, a contrast to it’s informal beginnings), he still enjoys making it out to cheer on his family. Western Fest is always a highlight, and he says that he is looking forward to leading the parade again this weekend.
“I’ve been in Granite Falls for a long time,” Greg reflected, “I hope Western Fest continues for a long time. For my sake, I’d like to see it carry on.”