Students at Spanish Oaks Elementary School were greeted Monday afternoon by a delegation of blue shirts, blue jeans, black cowboy hats, big belt buckles and a “howdy.”

“They love seeing us come back,” said Seth Perrins, a committee member for the Fiesta Days Rodeo.

Rodeo staff and rodeo queens returned to the school to learn the students’ progress on a month-long reading challenge. Students at 10 schools in Nebo School District that enroll Spanish Fork students were challenged to beat the previous year’s total of reading 2 million minutes during the month of April.

Spanish Fork Elementary School alone read 166,000 minutes in April. The total number of minutes read among the 10 schools had not been calculated as of Monday afternoon.

“It will be really close,” Perrins said.

The rodeo began doing school assemblies four years ago to teach elementary school students about the Fiesta Days Rodeo, western culture and the importance of reading.

With a shrinking amount of rural land in southern Utah County, Perrins said it’s important for students to learn about western heritage and rodeo.

“We don’t want that to get lost,” Perrins said.

Several students received free rodeo tickets and two students from each school will receive a free cowboy hat, boots and jeans. Perrins said companies like Justin Boots and Wrangler were quick to get onboard to offer the free gear to students, and Resistol, which provides cowboy hats, also participates.

“They’ll wear them, have them and it’ll be a prize they’ll have for a long time,” Perrins said.

The Fiesta Days Rodeo will begin in late July.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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