By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
PERRY, Iowa, Aug. 14, 2017 -- Over the past 27 years, supporters of the Raccoon River Valley Trail have found dozens of ways to raise money to help develop, build and promote this 89-paved trail in west central Iowa. Let's see -- there have been hot air balloon rides, harvest rides in giant combines, time-shares in condos in Colorado and Arizona, lunches with the Iowa State Cyclones radio broadcast team, wine & beer-making sessions, paintings & cartoons by the famed Iowa artist Brian Duffy, and more. If somebody suggested an idea would be a good fundraiser, we've tried it.
But now comes what is undoubtedly the most daring, perhaps wildest fundraising idea ever for the RRVT.
Sven Peterson, 26, city administrator for the City of Perry, on Friday, Sept. 8, is going to attempt to ride a bull in the rodeo arena at the Dallas County Fairgrounds in Adel.
"I'm not a cowboy," Peterson said, "and not really an athlete, either. I guess the thing that would tell you what kind of an athlete I am is that I played golf in high school."
Nevertheless, he is now taking per-second pledges for how long he can stay on "Mudslinger." That's a bull which will be provided by the livestock contractor for the Iowa Rodeo Cowboys Association season finals championship rodeo, which is being held Sept. 7, 8 and 9 at the fairgrounds in Adel.
You can add your pledge to the amount-per-second that is growing now -- or you can make a straight donation -- and all proceeds will go to the Dallas County Conservation Foundation to help pay for the "Connector" trail that is now being planned to link the RRVT and the High Trestle Trail, two of the most popular recreational trails in America. The 9-mile-long "Connector," which will run from Perry to Woodward, is expected to cost about $5 million, and so far about $1.3 million has been raised.
"Mudslinger" has been given that name by the members of the street maintenance team in the Public Works Department for the City of Perry. Yes, as you are guessing, they are people who work for Peterson and who are reportedly quite tickled at the thought of the boss trying to ride a bull.
At mid-afternoon Monday, Aug. 14, word had barely leaked out about Peterson's bold attempt, but it is already capturing public attention. When we talked, he pulled out "a spread sheet" of pledges that have come in, and he reported that as of 3 p.m., pledges had reached $200 per-second and that there'd been another $50 in straight donations.
We've explained here that Peterson is neither a cowboy, nor an athlete. He's not even a bicycle rider. "Oh, I do own a bike, but I don't ride it early as much as I should," he said.
But he's obvously a good sport.
So, where did this idea originate?
"After a recent city council meeting in Perry, a bunch of us had gathered at the Hotel Pattee," Peterson said. "A whole lot of us in Perry are excited about getting this 'Connector' trail built, and we've been doing all we can in fundraising for it." The conversation turned to the IRCA championship rodeo coming in early September at the county fairgrounds arena, and Peterson mentioned that he once rode a bucking bronc horse. From that comment, he said, "some of the others there started saying I should ride a bull at the rodeo and raise some money for the 'Connector'."
He said riding the bucking bronc horse in the past and riding the bull in September "are both bucket-list kind of things for me. It'll be nice to be able to have both of those things crossed off my bucket list, and hopefully I can stay on the bull long enough to raise some money for the trail."
The only other rodeo experience he's had, he said, "is entering the mutton-busting contest at the Dallas County Fair, probably about 15 years ago."
Whatever Peterson's shortcomings are in athletics, he is considered to be one of the bright young lights among city administrators in Iowa.
He is a native of Perry. By his high school years, he was starting to become interested in community activities and projects. In his senior year, he got involved with an Iowa State Unversity Extension class on community and regional planning, and one thing he learned was that ISU has an academic programin that field. He went on to earn his bachelor degree at Iowa State, then a master's at Drake University in public administration. He won an internship with the City of Perry during his college years and, after his education, was hired as an assistant to then-city administrator Butch Niebuhr, who was nearing retirement. When Niebuhr retired, Peterson was promoted and has now served two years as city administrator of his hometown.
He said the rodeo stock contractor has reported that the bull he has in mind for Peterson "is not what they refer to as a 'man eater,' but still isn't going to be real tame, either. I don't think it'll be a geriatric bull."
To prepare for his Sept. 8 ride, "I've found a helmet to wear and a vest, and I'm going to get some chaps and a riding glove, too," he said.
Asked what his family thinks about all this, Peterson said his mother "is really excited about it, but I don't think my dad knows anything about it yet. I'm kind of waiting for his response after he reads it somewhere."
He said he did mention it to his insurance agent, "and he not only gave me the O.K. to do it, but he said he's going to bring his family to watch."
His ride is scheduled for 7 p.m. on that Friday evening.
Peterson said "hopefully the ride will last a few seconds, anyway, and my bigger hope is that I live through it so I can watch the Iowa State-Iowa football game the next day."