Tucson undoubtedly means many things to many people, but to us I’d have to say it means rodeo – Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Celebration of the Cowboys), one of the Top 25 rodeos in North America. For the second year we traded in our backpacks and hiking boots for dungarees and cowboy hats and headed to the rodeo with friends Chuck and Susan.
We stayed at Catalina SP and I would normally tell you about the great campground, the beautiful view, the hikes we took or the 20-mile bike ride we peddled on the fabulous trail that leaves the campground and heads to Tucson and beyond.
But the rodeo; ahh, the rodeo. I took over 350 pictures and culled it down to about 150 and now it is getting really hard to cull further. This may be my most difficult post, as I would like to share about 100 pictures. The kids and junior events were as much fun as the professional rider events!
From the Mutton Bustin’ (juniors), barrel racing, bareback riding, steer wrestling (on quarter horses), saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, team roping, and of course bull riding, we had a great assortment of events to watch. The weather cooperated with blue skies, 83 degrees and almost no humidity.
If you have never been to a rodeo, the contestants and animals (on certain events) are measured equally on a performance, so it behooves (no pun intended) the rider to have a sprightly beast to ride. For example, the rider and the animal each account for 50 points on a ride, for a total of 100 potential points. A combined score of 80 points is really good, and a combined 90 points would be an exceptional ride. On the bronc and bull riding events the riders can only use one hand and must last a minimum of 8 seconds in order to qualify.
You can see on some of the photos the elapsed time – maybe .9 seconds out of a minimum 8 seconds, and you can already see a rider is lucky to still be hanging on at 2 seconds. Once the riders get bucked off, they are completely vulnerable for a brief second, but plenty long enough for the bull to get a piece of them.
Particularly in the bull-riding event, in order to avoid harm to the riders, the rodeo clowns put themselves in harms way to help these riders once they have been thrown. The announcer mentioned that the rodeo clowns are past champions in this event, clearly know their stuff, and provide a critical function.
Prize money can reach $10,000, but like I said to Karen there would have to be a lot more zeros to the left of the decimal before I’d get on any of these beasts. My kind of ride is more like Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyworld.
While rodeos have been subject to accusations of animal cruelty over the course of time, it is my understanding that for sanctioned rodeos (this was one) there are very strict rules and guidelines to prevent animal cruelty. There is clearly an incentive to treat these animals well, as they can cost $8,000 to $10,000 each! Hopefully I am not being naïve.
The rodeo supports a scholarship fund for college students and provides educational programs in support of the program.
More importantly than any of this, the rodeo provides an opportunity for cowgirls to get a tattoo – this year my favorite cowgirl got a Gecko tattoo. One must keep their priorities in order.