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Harrisburg - Special needs youth had the chance to be cowboys and cowgirls for a day at the third annual Exceptional Rodeo, Thursday, Jan. 13, at the 2011 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

Sponsored by the First Frontier ProRodeo Circuit and the Outback Trading Post, 75 special needs children, the largest group to date, joined in the fun.

The special needs children were paired with professional rodeo contestants who taught the children what it takes to be in a rodeo. The children had the chance to ride a real horse and sit on a real bull, experience barrel racing with pogo horses, rope a plastic steer and ride bull and bronco straw bales.

Participant Mike Burkepile of Camp Hill, Dauphin County, kicked off the rodeo as he shouted a big "yee haw" into the announcer's microphone. A returning Exceptional Rodeo cowboy, Burkepile thoroughly enjoyed roping the plastic steers with his cowboy friends.

"The Exceptional Rodeo is extremely rewarding and a highlight for the special needs children and rodeo personnel," said Betsy Harris, event coordinator. "We love hosting this rodeo and look forward to having it for many years to come."

All participants received a t-shirt, cowboy hat, trick rope and a poster for autographs.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the nation, featuring nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 290 commercial exhibitors. The show runs Jan. 8-15 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg. Admission is free and parking is $10.

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For photos of the event, click here.