Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Buffalo Bill Rodeo

As a tourism professional, you can imagine that my days get pretty busy during NEBRASKAland DAYS, which is Nebraska's official state celebration, headquartered in my town-of-occupation, North Platte. There are so many events, from Woodcarving Shows, Art Shows, Sports Tournaments, Heritage Festivals, Sports Tournaments, Parades, on and on and on. I try to get to as many as I can, and take as many pictures as I can, but it's a lot to try to blog about, so I'll concentrate on the Buffalo Bill PRCA Rodeo.

North Platte's own Velvet Spurs Riding Club, a horse drill team, opens the show each night with a routine that takes lots of skill, horsemanship and practice!
Miss Rodeo Nebraska works hard each night of the rodeo. One of her jobs is to introduce the main sponsors. Here she sports the flag of Dodge Ram Trucks, one of the main sponsors of the PRCA Rodeo circuit. She is also busy during the timed events, making sure that the livestock quickly make their way to the holding pens on the opposite end of the arena so the show can go on.
Did you know that the sport of spectator rodeo began in North Platte in 1882 when Buffalo Bill Cody was asked by North Platte's town fathers to organize an Independence Day celebration call the Old Glory Blowout? The world's oldest rodeo celebrated 127 years this year, and Buffalo Bill, in the person of Bruce Richman welcomes the crowd.
Michelle's highest honor each night is to escort Old Glory into the arena to open the rodeo with the singing of the National Anthem. Rodeo is quite unique in that there is hardly a dry eye in the house when she passes by. It was even more emotional Saturday night as we celebrated the homecoming of North Platte's own 1013th Transportation Company from their third tour of duty in Iraq. These men and women have been gone for nearly a year.
Behind the chutes, the tension mounts as the cowboys prepare for their rides. This young man stood in this position for a long, long time, mentally preparing himself for his upcoming performance.
Rodeo is a tough sport, and the bodies of these young cowboys, lean and hard as they might be, really take a beating. Taping up old injuries and adding a little strength to the muscle and sinew help them ride again and again.
Part of the mental preparation includes a prayer for a good performance, safety and well-being during the upcoming ride.
Bull riding is traditionally the last event of the night, but at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo, they always give the crowd a little taste of the action with a few rides set at the very beginning.

It takes an army of people behind the chutes to get the cowboys and the animal athletes ready for the ride, then the chute gate opens and the action begins. All they can do is watch and cheer the duo on.
It's a good thing there are a few bull rides early in the evening, as it is too dark by about 10pm when the rodeo is nearing its end and the full bull riding event takes place to get good pictures. At least I'm able to share a few with you. I very seldom get to watch a complete ride, as my eyes are usually closed by the time the eight seconds are over. The dismounts can sometimes be brutal!
Two of the most important men in the arena during the rodeo are the pick-up men, and the Beutler & Sons rodeo stock contractors have two of the best. During the bull rides, they protect the cowboys by helping the clowns distract the bull after the cowboy hits the dirt, and get the bulls safely back into the holding pens. They are also there if a ride should go wrong and the cowboy get "hung up" in the rigging. During the bareback and saddle bronc rides, they help the cowboys dismount after successful rides (in which they haven't been thrown to the ground prior to the eight-second time limit). Consider that all of this action is happening a break-neck speed!
After the cowboy is safely on the ground, it's time to remove the rigging and get the horse back in the holding pens behind the chutes.
Back in the day it was called Bulldogging. Today the preferred term is steer wrestling, and it is just that. Two cowboys guide a long-horned steer down the center of the arena at top speed, and then one cowboy dives off his horse onto the steers back to wrestle him to the ground.
The steer has size and brute strength on his side, but the cowboy has technique and momentum on his. A successful performance ends with the steer flat on his side with all four legs pointing in one direction - oh yeah, and with a cowboy that hasn't been gored by one of the sharp horns or otherwise injured in the tumble to the ground.
Other timed events include calf roping and team roping, but again these occur too late in the evening for my limited skills to get good photographs. Then there's the ladies barrel racing, which I don't have pictures of either.
One of the horse-bucking events is the bareback riding. These cowboys have nothing more than a rope around the belly of the horse to keep them in their seat.
It can be a wild ride, because the animal athlete is intent on getting the unwanted rider off of their back!
Here you can see more clearly the bareback rigging that the cowboy is supposed to be holding on to to keep his seat. This ride didn't end quite that way, as you can see the cowboy has no hold on anything!
This ride is still going well for the cowboy in question, but doesn't it look painful?
Miss Rodeo Nebraska gets help from the Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska Matisyn Humphrey in her duties during the night.
Each year NEBRASKAland DAYS hosts a select few Sailors from the USS Nebraska Submarine. During their time in North Platte, these Sailors are treated like celebrities. As this young man mentioned to the Mister, most have never been treated so good in all their lives.
It is an honor for us to have these brave and gallant young men in town for a few days, and they enjoy it as well. One young man commented on the fact that not only do they receive great treatment, but they are awed by being in the company of people who get a lump in their throat when the Stars and Stripes pass by.
From North Platte they had east to Offut Air Force Base and the Strategic Air Command for a tour.
Rodeo isn't all rodeo. There's entertainment as well. These two little guys and the big guy in the back are the stars of the evenings entertainment provided by The Texas Kid, Rodney Hayes and his two diminutive proteges, little girls ages about six! These young ladies ride these ponies like the professionals they are.
The clown specialty act is provided by Keith Isley and one of his four-legged partners. Keith is the 2009 PRCA Clown of the Year, Coors Man in the Can and the Comedy Act of the Year. Yes he entertains the crowd, but he also provides a vital function in helping to protect the cowboys during the bull riding.
His companion is beautiful and talented!
The Buffalo Bill Rodeo is quite a prestigious event. The Rodeo Committee has been inducted into the PRCA Cowboy Hall of Fame, as has long-time Rodeo announcer Hadley Barrett. It also attracts the top cowboys on the circuit as well as entertainment of the calibre of Keith Isley.
One of the highlights of the Wednesday night performance is the crowning of Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2011, Miss Becky Grimm of Harrison Nebraska. She will serve as Lady in Waiting until January 2011 at which time she will take over the title after MRN 2010 Michelle Boeshart competes in Las Vegas for Miss Rodeo America.
And there you have it, four nights of Buffalo Bill Rodeo condensed into one blog post (sorry I didn't condense it any further!)
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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