Everyone associates Texas with cowboys and bull riding. So when the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo arrived in Austin I wanted to go see what it was all about. The Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo is usually during the last 2 weeks of March and incorporates a fair , rodeo and live music. The one great thing about attending a Rodeo event is that there is also a live music concert included as part of the entertainment. The night I went , Kevin Fowler performed and I actually enjoyed the music as part of the overall experience.
The main event is obviously the bull riding , but there is a range of other events before the bull riding which is pretty enjoyable as well. There is also roping , barrel racing, steer wrestling and goat tying. All these happen before the main event. The Rodeo Austin is part of the national circuit, aka the ProRodeo, and is the 6th largest event on the indoor ProRodeo calendar. The cowboys and cowgirls take part in their respective events over the couple of weeks they are in Austin. The ProRodeo finals are always on the final day of the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo.I attended the final day,as I wanted to see the final winners compete in each event.
The roping is basically where the cowboy uses a rope with a loop to catch calves.This rope is known as a lariat,lasso or riata. There is 3 types of roping:
- Calf Roping/Tie-down Roping – The cowboy on a horse chases a calf and is timed to see how quickly he can catch the calf with his lariat/rope. After the cowboy catches the calf with his the rope , he jumps from his horse and then has to tie at least 3 of the calve’s legs together , in order for the clock to stop.
- Breakaway Roping – This is a different version of Calf Roping , where the calf only needs to be roped and not thrown down as in Calf Roping. This is done more on school and college level and was not performed at the Austin Rodeo.
- Team Roping – Teams of 2 people on horses who attempt to catch and restrain a full-grown steer.A steer is basically a young ,castrated bull. The first roper, the “header”, ropes the steer around its horns or neck.The second roper,the “heeler”, ropes the steer around its 2 back legs. If only one leg is caught , there is a 5 second penalty. This is the one rodeo event where mixed gender teams are allowed, which is pretty cool. In my opinion this is one of the most difficult events due to team coordination and other technicalities.Thus it makes sense that a lot of teams seriously struggled at this event.
The other events
- Barrel Racing
This is mainly an event for the ladies. The cowgirl and her horse has to make their
way between a course of preset barrels , without pushing any barrels over.This
is a timed event and penalties are incurred if any barrels are pushed over.I was
amazed at how agile and fast these ladies where able to go , whilst still
keeping a 100% control over the animals.
- Steer Wrestling/Bulldogging
The cowboy chases a steer on his horse and when he is close enough, he jumps from his horse to the steer and wrestles it to the ground by twisting its horns. The cowboy’s timing of his jump has to be spot on in order to not miss the steer. This happens crazy fast!
- Goat Tying
The contestant runs to a goat after dismounting from his/her horse. The goat is already staked/tied to a short 10’ rope.The rider then has to throw the goat to the ground and tie it in the same manner as a calf in calf roping.This wasn’t performed at the Austin Rodeo as it is usually used to teach pre-teen boys and girls the complexities of roping
This event was initially created to teach cowboys how to break-in wild horses.But these days the horses used are ones specifically bred to be highly agile and who have great bucking skills. There is 2 divisions in rodeo , the bareback bronc riding and the saddle bronc riding.There is some technicalities in this event ,as both the rider and horse is scored to get to a combined total for the ride.The more spectacular the horse bucks , the more the overall score of the rider.I went to the rodeo to specifically see the bull riding , but I ended up seriously enjoying the bronc riding ,as it is unbelievably difficult to stay on these horses whilst they jump around ,trying like crazy to throw the riders off.
The Main Event
The bull riding is obviously the main event and also the main reason I wanted to go to the Rodeo.Having seen some bulls in the stockyard in Dallas , it was obvious that these cowboys where either crazy or had some serious balls of steel!!! These bulls are not just unbelievably strong and big , but they are also driven by only one thing – to throw the cowboy of its back and also try and hurt them!! The cowboy has 8 seconds to survive in order to score points! Once again , as in Bronc Riding, both the rider and bull is scored to get to the total points for the ride. The bull is basically scored based on how difficult it is to ride. I got the utmost respect for these cowboys for putting their lives at risk to do something they love.
During the couple of weeks that the rodeo is in town , there is also a fairground next to the Rodeo Arena.All the normal rides , like a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, roller coaster and bumper cars where there.My main aim was to attend the Rodeo , so I did not go to the Fairgrounds, but based on all the kids I saw there it looked pretty enjoyable.Tickets for the carnival are sold separately from the Rodeo tickets.
Overall I really enjoyed my time at the Austin Rodeo and I will definitely attend a Rodeo again. The whole “show” ,if you can call it that, is really well organized and the music,food and incredible atmosphere is definitely something I think one should experience at least once.I also tried a roasted turkey leg , whilst watching the Rodeo ,as it wasn’t something I familiar with and it actually ended up being something that added to the whole experience.The rich tradition of the cowboy lifestyle and the people who attended the rodeo is something that really stood out for me and something that I will remember for a long time.