My night at the Cody Rodeo

Four years ago, as I traveled through Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area in northwest Wyoming, I passed through the town of Cody, which is east of the southeast entrance to the Park. Cody bills itself as the “Rodeo Capital of the World” and I decided that day that this was where I wanted to see my first rodeo. I had planned to have a shirt made proclaiming “This IS my first rodeo!” but as with many of my plans it never came to fruition.

During the summer Cody hosts a rodeo every night of the week. As I drive around the western states I see many small towns which have rodeo arenas and host them sporadically, especially on the 4th of July. Lander was going to have one then, too, but I was going to be gone by then. So I booked an Airbnb for the night in a nearby town and headed up to Cody.

The arena itself is a little smaller than a football field. There were two big grandstands on opposite sides and a smaller one in one “corner” (to the extent that ovals have corners). My guess was that there were about 200 people in each of the two main grandstands.

This is a family activity and there were lots of children of various ages. About midway through the event they called all the kids down on to the arena surface for a contest. The crowd loved it. Overall I would say it was a night of wholesome family entertainment. I wish I had walked through the parking lot before it started to see how many state license plates were represented. I know I saw several without taking a formal survey.

I have mixed feelings about the treatment of the animals but from what I read online many of the horses and bulls are bred and trained to “buck” and the apparatus which is used to “aggravate” them isn’t as terrible as I first thought. Rodeos have been around for a very long time and are part of the cowboy culture.

The event lasted a little over two hours, and I stayed for the whole thing. There were a variety of events and there was only one rider who appeared to have been injured, though he ultimately walked off under his own power. For a while, though, you could tell he was in pain.

There was an “emcee” on horseback, in the arena, who kept the audience informed about what was going on and where the riders were from.

I didn’t buy a program but it sounded like some of the participants traveled a considerable distance to compete. I’m sure competing at Cody is a dream for many riders.

At the beginning of the event there were people who rode around carrying flags of the many event sponsors. There was also a prayer, and a young lady rode around with the American flag while the national anthem was played.

And of course there were rodeo clowns, who distract the agitated animals from the people and other animals in the arena until they are “escorted off”.

The guy in the black shirt is blocking the view of the second “clown”. I thought I had taken another shot but evidently I was mistaken.

There were always several people on horseback to “chase” animals out of the arena after their “event” was over. Some went willingly, others had to be chased around a bit. There were also people on foot in the arena, to open the “chute” gate and pick up any debris which came loose (like the rider’s hat), and sometimes they had to scramble up the fence around the arena if the agitated animal came their way.

Enough talk – let’s see some action. Since the event started while the sun was still up I tried getting action shots with my digital camera. Later I switched to taking video clips with my smartphone but I don’t think I can post them on the blog. My nephew Sam tells me I can post them somewhere else (like YouTube, maybe) and then post a link but I haven’t had a chance to try that yet.

The rider was finally ejected and after he had a chance to catch his breath, walked off into the sunset…..

I believe the goal is to stay on for 8 seconds. My Android phone camera used to title each photo with the exact time (including seconds and fractions of seconds) when each photo was taken but my digital camera shows that all the photos in the sequence were taken at 8:14pm so I have no idea how long this rider stayed on. I can get a stopwatch to time the many video clips I shot with my iPhone but I can tell you right now, no one stayed on for very long all night.

There were various roping events, some barrel racing (where riders were timed navigating around strategically placed barrels) and cowboys riding bucking bulls instead of bucking broncos. Other than the period when kids were called down to compete in a contest and another period when the clowns played a little skit to amuse the kids in the crowd, there was something going on all the time.

It was an entertaining evening and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Later in my trip I went to a restaurant for dinner and they had “The Cowboy Channel” (who knew??) on TV, showing a rodeo from Reno, NV – which apparently pays big bucks. They had some awesome riders. And I believe there is a PBR Tour which is sometimes on one of the channels I get on Sling Blue (I’m not sure which one).

I will see if I can’t get some of my video clips to be available my links in a future post.