A few years living in Alberta, Canada was all it took for me to be hooked on the thrill of a rodeo. Up until then, I had some vague impression that a rodeo was an 80s event that happened only in the deep south, but I am so glad I was wrong. Although can’t ride a horse to save myself and I don't really know what a steer is, I still found plenty of reasons to love rodeos, and these are just a few!
Maybe it’s the profusion of testosterone or the excuse to dress up that gives a rodeo its unique atmosphere, but for whatever reason the mood is always joyfully electric and upbeat. Throw in a good dose of sugar from the food vendors and plenty of opportunities to dance without being judged and you’ve got one helluva party, which is magnified by the adrenaline of the main event. Your heart will be in your mouth as you watch the bull released from the gates, and see his rider flailed about by hundreds of kilos of enraged animal. You can't help but add your own screams to the cacophony of the passionate crowd.
Playing dress up
If you ever wanted to own a pair of cowboy boots, this is your chance to rock those bad boys. Get into the spirit of things with a hat and a checked shirt – we promise you won’t be the only one. Even in France, people dress in their very best Western-wear and jump to join the line dancing at the annual Equiblues Rodeo in St Agreves.
Equiblues Festival of Rodeo and Country Music, St. Agreve, France
9th – 14th August 2017
So much room for activities
You could stay entertained at a rodeo all day without seeing a bucking bronco; it seems to be a point of pride for organisers to turn their event into a bang-up country fair. Who can resist trying to win a stuffed toy by knocking down a stack of milk bottles, or going for a spin on the dodgem cars? That’s just the start of it; - at Colorado’s Greeley Stampede there’s also a demolition derby and a recreated pioneer town, complete with chuck-wagon dining and costumed actors.
Greeley Stampede, Colorado, USA
June 23rd – July 4th 2017
More on Canada's main cowboy event: Calgary Stampede Gallops Into Its Second Century
Dust off your boots: Cowboy Country In The Wild USA
A different kind of festival: Japan's Northern Festivals Of Fire and Ice
A selection of first-rate BBQ is a given at any rodeo, but some festivals have taken the food scene to a whole new level. The food-truck vendors and their unbelievable creations have become a main attraction of the Calgary Stampede, but don’t be like me and eat three deep-fried Butter Tarts and be too ill to try anything else. Pace yourself so you can sample delights such as the Deep-Fried Tequila Shot Bites, Teriyaki Chicken Perogies, or the PBO Stack – a deep-fried sandwich of peanut butter cups and Oreos.
Calgary Stampede, Alberta, Canada
7th – 16th July 2017
Rodeos pull huge headline acts, and they’re not just country-and-western gigs. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is reputedly the world’s largest such event, so it’s no surprise to see names such as Beyonce, Pitbull and Demi Lovato in the list of past performers, alongside legends such as Lynryd Skynyrd and Dolly Parton.
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Texas, USA
7th – 26th March 2017
Parties and Nightlife
Everyone is buoyed up by that magical rodeo zing, and the party continues long after the cows come home. Even in our own backyard, the Mt Isa Rodeo is known for its opening night Street Party and family-friendly Mardi Gras Parade, as well as the big Rodeo Ball that caps off festivities.
Mt Isa Rodeo Ball, Queensland, Australia
11th – 13th August 2017
Courageous youngsters can take part in a variety of junior rodeo events, including the ‘mutton busting’, an event where kids can cling to the back of a sheep in a competition to see who can stick it out the longest. If you’re not keen to see your little one on sheep-back, they can take part in a Stick-Horse Rodeo, watch a sheep shearing demonstration or race a pedal-powered John Deere at The National Western Stock Show in Denver.
The National Western Stock Show, Colorado, USA
7th – 22nd January 2017
It’s easy to forget that the spectacle of a man riding a bucking bronco actually has its roots in history. All rodeo events are based on activities that cowboys had to undertake on a day-to-day basis, and you soon realize that these guys had some impressive skills.
Prescott, Arizona was where a group of merchants and businessmen first organised a formalised ‘Cowboy Tournament’, an 1888 event that showcased the talents of local ranchers who competed for a modest purse. Prescott Frontier Days’ World’s Oldest Rodeo is now a full-scale modern event, which stays true to its Wild West traditions.
World’s Oldest Rodeo – Arizona, USA
28th June – 4th July 2017