The Rodeo!

This post is a month and a half overdue but I had too many other posts lined up and I didn't want to disturb the flow. Anyway, back in mid-June, while I was still working in North Dakota, my coworker and I got "kicked out" of our hotel for one night because they were overbooked. So, we decided to head to Bismarck for the evening. Lucky for us, the PBR Bull Riding Competition was in town that weekend so it wasn't a waste of a trip to town. I know what you're thinking, Pabst Blue Ribbon? No, no, it was the Professional Bull Riding competition.

I never, ever thought I'd go to a rodeo - though this was technically not a full rodeo, as rodeos feature several different components of cattle herding and related competitive activities, but you get the drift. Anyway, it turns out that when you're in this neck of the woods and there isn't much going on, you are easily persuaded into these things. General admission was only $18 and the Bismarck Civic Center was small enough that anywhere you sat was bound to be a decent seat.

The evening started with a prayer - which I found interesting but cool - and then a local girl sang the National Anthem. You know you're in the midwest when the singer is wearing fringe and she sings, "that the flag was still there..." and pronounces it "fleh-y-g."
The bulls were kept in their little pens and I thought they were so cute! I'm a big softy when it comes to animals so I can appreciate almost anything furry (except rodents, gross!). I've read about the controversial issues regarding animal welfare and cruelty associated with bull riding so I was pretty apprehensive about the whole thing but these little guys seemed to be okay with their lifestyle, especially considering the small scale of this event. I mean, I didn't personally interview every single bull, but they're being fed and cared for and no one's eating them for dinner, right?

The show started off with a bang! Literally! There was a loud noise and then the letters 'PBR' were lit up in flames while the riders were being introduced. Some of them received louder cheers than others, probably the more popular, talented, perhaps good looking ones. Ben Jones, an Australian, got the loudest cheers. I guess he was a crowd favorite. (I looked him up after the show and he's missing a few teeth so I think his talent is what got all the fans riled up.)
There were three or four rounds of riding before the final championship section. During each round, the riders would climb onto the bulls inside of the gates. You'd see them squish their tushies around, trying to get a secure seat, and they'd work on getting a good grip on the rope. And then bam! The gates would open and the bull would come rushing out and start wiggling like crazy trying to buck the rider off.
Once in a while, the bull went a little crazy and ran around the arena, charging the safety guys and the horse, but most of the time, the bulls were super well behaved and walked right back into the gate to their pens.
I learned a lot about the sport that night. I mean, of course I did since I knew nothing about it beforehand! I learned that the rider has to stay on for at least 8 seconds. He cannot touch the bull with his freehand. And the wilder the bull bucks, the higher the score he will receive. Two or three of the riders had v. graceful "dismounts" where they almost just hopped off the bull. But, the majority of the time, they all just tumbled off and practically got trampled and two or three of them walked away with a limp. I was half covering my eyes with every ride out of anxiety and fear. A handful fell off as soon as the bull left the gate and there was one guy who lasted for 7.98 seconds (that's a line a lady doesn't like to hear, right? HA). It made the crowd sad; I mean, disqualified by 0.02 friggin' seconds, man!
One of my favorite parts of the show was the rodeo clown, Flint Rasmussen. He had a good rapport going with the announcer and he was pretty funny. Lucky for me, we were far enough away that I couldn't really see his clown makeup. I'm not the biggest fan of clowns (re: they freak me out to the high heavens) but this guy was pretty good. During the brief intermission, he did a little impromptu dance routine for us. Apparently the evening before, he reenacted the Flashdance audition scene so for our show, he had to top it. He ended up doing a montage of dances to different songs, including Madonna's Like a Virgin, Michael Jackson's Billy Jean, and Air Supply's All Out of Love. Speaking of music, whoever was "DJing" this event had good taste and knew how to work the crowd. He played a lot of old school rock mixed with current Top 40 stuff so everyone was satisfied. He even played one of my current fave jams, Lil Jon's Turn Down for What as the opening to one of the bull riders coming out of the gate.
And not to seem like a creep, but I thought these little boys were so cute with their signed cowboy hats! I had to sneak a photo. There was a fourth kid but he didn't have his hat on so I cropped him out. Sorry, buddy!
Here's a short clip of a guy who did really well, if you're interested in watching this stuff in action. Any time the riders did well, they'd hop off and then run around the arena and do a little happy dance. It was really adorable, I mean, manly and rugged, you know, like the sport of bull riding.
They also did this bullseye frisbee toss. Each frisbee cost $5 and you could buy as many as you wanted and the person whose disc landed closest to the target won a prize. I thought that was fun. The money all went towards some commendable purpose.
In the end, a North Dakota resident won the competition so the crowd was rather happy. I don't remember his name - Lawrence something maybe? - but he had feathered hair like Farrah Fawcett. Congrats to him!
Would I go again? Probably not - this was just a once in a lifetime deal for me - but I did have fun. If you get the opportunity to go and you're unsure, I say go for it! If anything, you can at least enjoy the music and beer.