|Watch our visit to the Rodeo at the Beach in Brunswick, Georgia shot with the Sony WX50 Cybershot camera. If you’d like to create your own free video slideshow with your own photos click here.|
“How are the bugs tonight,” I asked the parking assistant as I got out of my car. “They’ve started to pick up now that the wind has died down,” he responded. “If you brought bug spray you might want to take it with you.” Luckily I was prepared for this possibility and had, indeed, brought my bug spray. Where there were cows and horses, I reasoned, there were bound to be bugs. And the thought of spending two hours sitting in bleachers watching a rodeo while swatting at gnats didn’t sound like my idea of a family night of fun.
We had arrived at the Exchange Club Fair Grounds in Brunswick, Georgia for the second annual Rodeo at the Beach. Just weeks earlier we had attended the Cole Bros. Circus here and it was amazing how different the place looked as we entered the main grounds. Instead of a big top there was a rodeo ring surrounded by bleachers. And outside the ring was a variety of booths and tents with offerings like those typical of local street festivals.
To our right was a stage with a group of ladies square dancing to country and western music. My wife, Lina, and daughter, Savannah, walked over and watched the ladies dressed in black and white outfits giving it their best as they skipped and whirled and tapped along to the music.
Right next to this musical and dancing entertainment was the mechanical bull. People of all ages were lined up to take their turn to see how long they could last on this bucking bull simulator. The operator took it easy on the kids and ladies but gave little mercy to the men. Regardless, no one was able to stay on for long which gave everyone a greater appreciation for the athletic prowess of the riders we would soon witness in the rodeo arena. My daughter wanted to try her hand at riding the mechanical bull but at only four years old I thought it might not be the best idea!
Disappointed, I distracted her with an offer to ride a real pony. As we walked towards where the pony rides were stationed we passed two large bounce houses. She decided she wanted to jump in the bounce house before riding a pony so I walked her over and instructed her to remove her boots. She was soon barefoot and climbing into the bounce house. Bounce houses are one of her favorite activities but soon some larger boys decided to enter and most parents followed my lead when I told my daughter it was time to go. (Just do a quick Google search on bounce house accident statistics and you’ll soon see the horror stories of what happens when you mix age groups.)
We next went straight to the pony rides. While standing in line I saw a pony that looked identical to the one she rode at the recent Easter Egg Stroll on Jekyll Island. I then realized these were the exact same ponies except this time the pony rides were free instead of a $5 charge. In fact, all of the attractions were free (we thought) which was a nice bonus.
Next we stood in line for the bungee jump but as we got close to the front of the line we noticed this attraction required a $7 fee. Luckily just as I realized this the emcee of the rodeo announced over the loudspeakers for all kids six and under to join them in the center of the arena for a treasure hunt. This got me off the hook for the $7 bungee jump (for now, anyway.) We headed for the arena where there were already a bunch of kids gathered around a large blue tarp covered with hay bails. A midget rodeo clown by the name of Porkchop was explaining the rules to the kids along with the Miss Rodeo Queen, Lauren Terry.
After a mad scramble my daughter emerged with a green plastic snake (similar to one we had caught just days earlier on the road to our house.) We then went and sat at the first empty spot in the bleachers we could find and waited for the rodeo to begin.After a short prayer two horses and riders trotted into the arena carrying American flags and the national anthem soon followed. Next a parade of horses and riders carrying all manner of state flags rode around the arena. Now it was time for the real action to begin.The first acts were the bareback bucking bronco riders. According to the program:
“Bareback riding…consistently produces some of the wildest action in the sport. A bareback rider begins his ride with his feet placed above the break of the horse’s shoulder. If the cowboy’s feet are not in the correct position when the horse hits the ground on its first jump out of the chute, the cowboy has failed to “mark out” the horse properly and is disqualified. Throughout the eight second ride, the cowboy must grasp the rigging (a handhold made of leather and rawhide) with only one hand. A rider is disqualified if he touches his equipment, himself or the animal with his free hand or bucks off.”
As the first horse bolted out of the gate its rider didn’t remain on its back for long. The next rider fared a little better but then seemed to have the opposite problem– his hand was stuck in the rope and he couldn’t get off of his horse. The next couple of riders managed to stay on for a few seconds but I don’t think any managed the full eight seconds. Apparently this is just as hard as it looks!
This event was followed by saddle bronc riding which was pretty much the same as the previous event except the horses wore saddles. The printed program explained the differences:
“While a bareback rider has a rigging to hold onto, the saddle bronc rider has only a thick rein attached to his horse’s halter. Using one hand, the cowboy tries to stay securely seated in his saddle.”
One would think this would make it easier to stay on but judging by the length of time the riders managed to hang on (which was not much longer than the bareback riders) it became clear that riding a bucking bronco with or without a saddle was not the easiest of tasks!
This event was followed by some Roman riding by Jessica Smiley-Hedrick. In roman riding the rider rides two horses simultaneously while standing with one foot on each horse. If this was not impressive enough she then rode over tall flaming torches. According to the emcee horses are terrified of fire making this stunt especially dangerous for the rider. Finally she capped off her segment by adding a third horse in between the two horses she was standing on. She then rode all three horses through a ring of fire….twice!
Next the emcee invited kids aged 10-13 into the arena for the Calf Scramble. The program notes that the Calf Scramble is “a crowd favorite as 25 children scramble to be the first to remove a ribbon from the calf’s tail. This is easier said than done!” It certainly was because as all the children came running towards the calf it promptly ran in the opposite direction leading the kids around and around the arena until finally one brave or lucky soul was able to snatch the ribbon from its tail.
Steer Wrestling was the next event. According to the program:
“Wrestling a steer requires more than brute strength. The successful steer wrestler, or bulldogger, is strong, to be sure, but he also understands the principles of leverage. The steer wrestler on horseback starts behind a barrier, and begins his chase after the steer has been given a head start. If the bulldogger leaves too soon and breaks the barrier, he receives a 10 second penalty. The steer wrestler is assisted by a hazer, another cowboy on horseback tasked with keeping the steer running in a straight line. When the bulldogger’s horse pulls even with the steer, he eases down the right side of the horse and reaches for the steer’s horns. After grasping the horns, he digs his heels into the dirt. As the steer slows, the cowboy turns the animal, lifts up on its right horn and pushes down with his left hand in an effort to tip the steer over. After the catch, the steer wrestler must either bring the steer to a stop or change the direction of the animal’s body before the throw or is disqualified.”
This event was immediately followed by the comical event of Steer Dressing. In this event two local teams of college students tried to be the first to catch a calf and then dress him in a pair of large shorts, socks and cowboy hat. One team managed to subdue their calf rather quickly and soon had him completely dressed while the other team was still chasing their steer around the arena.
Barrel Racing was the next event. In this event the “racer rides a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels positioned in the arena, and sprints back out of the arena…” It was quite impressive watching horses running at full speed and taking hairpin corners and then racing again at full gallop out of the arena. This was definitely as impressive as any of the more “death-defying” events already seen.
This was followed by Team Roping which, according to the program, “is unique in that two cowboys work together for a shared time. The first cowboy, known as the “header”, ropes the steer either by the horns, around the neck, or “half head” which is one horn and the net. After this catch is made, the header wraps his rope around the saddle horn and turns the steer in a wide arc to the left. The second cowboy is known as the “heeler.” He trails along beside the steer until the header turns the steer, then moves in behind the steer and attempts to rope the back feet.” This event was very similar to calf roping except the steer was a midsize cow with horns and two cowboys worked together to rope him and bring him down.
The final event was Bull Riding. This was definitely one of the more anticipated events of the rodeo. Watching a man try to stay on the back of a bucking bull that weighed over a ton was quite impressive. Even more impressive was the speed and maneuverability of this huge animal. No sooner had the cowboy been thrown off its back did it whip its giant body around and try to impale him. The cowboy had to be quick back on his feet and running to the fence so he could climb it and get out of harm’s way. Luckily for him the rodeo clowns and other assistants were there to distract the bull so he could make a safe escape.
My four year old daughter loved the Roman Riding and Bull Riding the best. Overall it was a fun family night at the rodeo.