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Lehi rodeo announcer joke isn't funny to Hispanic family

Published: Saturday, July 2 2011 2:16 a.m. MDT

LEHI — A Utah County woman is reaching out to Lehi city leaders after what she felt was a discriminatory experience at the Lehi Round-Up rodeo.

The woman, who didn't want to be identified, took her family to the rodeo last Thursday because her son loves horses. Things started innocently enough. The public announcer asked how many people in the crowd were from Idaho, who was from surrounding states, and people were raising their hands.

He went on to ask people who were born outside the United States to raise their hands. Then he asked if there were any illegals at the rodeo. At that moment, a train went by, and the woman said the announcer said, “Let’s round them up and put them on a train.”

The woman said she was shocked. "I felt people's stares, or their look, upon my family."

She said that really bothered her because she doesn’t want her children to feel inferior just because they are Hispanic. She said she's lived there for years and her family members are citizens.

"I'm not a person to complain about things, but this really did bother me," she said.

She told officials about it, they acknowledged it, but it allegedly happened again the next night at the rodeo.

Lehi City Councilman Mark Johnson attended the rodeo the night after the woman.

"I was a little bit concerned and taken back when he had asked about those that were outside the United States if they were illegal, that they should be shipped out," he said.

Johnson said he wants to discuss the issue with other council members and the mayor to determine "if they felt the same degree of (discomfort) that I did."

On Friday, the woman said rodeo officials told her they didn’t mean to offend anyone, but they never apologized for the remarks.

Andy Stewart, the announcer, is based out of Louisiana and travels the country calling rodeos. He says he asks illegal aliens to identify themselves at every event. He claims it's a joke and is "not offensive in any shape or fashion."

Stewart denies saying anything about rounding anyone up and putting them on a train.

Now the woman is reaching out to city leaders and county legislators. She said she received an email from Johnson saying what happened isn't right. She said she appreciated hearing that. "Really, what it comes down to is my family is going to grow up in this city."

She says the best she can do is teach her own children tolerance and respect for themselves and others.

E-mail: mrichards@desnews.com

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