PALMYRA, Mo. -- The annual Chase Anderson MDA Rodeo weekend always makes Austee VonAhn feel close to her late brother.
Anderson, who had autism and muscular dystrophy, died in 2011 at age 17. His family held the seventh annual rodeo in his honor this weekend at the Rockin A Arena in Palmyra.
"This has kept his memory alive for me over the years," VonAhn said. "A lot of the people here are friends he went to school with. I just feel really close to him this time of year."
The roundup -- an event added to the rodeo after its third year -- opened the arena Saturday morning for those with special needs and their buddies -- volunteers who escort them through the different attractions. The main draw of the roundup, which always maintained a lengthy line of a couple of dozen people, was the therapeutic horse rides. Those attending also were able to ride a mechanical bull, practice cattle-roping skills and get their faces painted.
The Roundup Rodeo has been steadily growing each year. Last year, about 200 people with special needs attended. This year, more than 100 registered for the event, setting a record for registrations.
"I had problems keeping my balance," said Hannibal resident Pedro Dyer after dismounting the bull. "It was better than a real bull, though. Real bulls are mean."
After struggling to hang on to the bucking bull, Dyer tried to coax his buddy, 2017 Miss Marion County Gracie Bross, to give it a try.
"This is a good way to be of service to the community, and it's a good time," Bross said. "It's a chance to meet wonderful people."
Dyer and Bross then made their way to a large area in the center of the arena, near the speaker system, where many attendees and their buddies were dancing.
Summer Saathoof of Quincy came to the roundup for the first time. Donning a cowboy hat as she stepped into the arena, Saathoof said she was drawn to the horses.
"I've been riding for a long time. I really like riding horses," she said. "I'm also seeing a lot of people I know. I'll definitely be back next year."
Shortly after the roundup began at 10 a.m., Saathoof had been on the horses and tested the bull. She had also played beanbag toss and stopped to get her face painted.
"It's good to see all these kids out here and to see how happy they are," said Sadi Kite, Saathoof's buddy. "I think it makes them feel like they're a part of something, like they can do anything they want to do."
Money raised through the Chase Anderson MDA Rodeo is donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.