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Angela Fairbank
Travel Writer

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town” series

Rodeo and Country Fair, Cloverdale, BC, Canada

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So, this was my first time (in memory) at a rodeo, let alone a country fair of this size - and although it was three bus rides away, it was well worth the trip - and definitely a case of being a tourist in my own town - well the 'burbs anyway. First of all, there was the entire cowboy culture and the competition of Americans against Canadians: testosterone, blue jeans, leather boots, fringed chaps, not to mention the horses, bulls, sheep (and also cute bunnies, llamas and chickens in the agricultural showcase).

And not just black and white cowboy hats either, but brown hats, pink hats, turquoise hats, green hats, even one particularly bright red hat.

First into the ring was a herd of horses being bred as bucking equines - who'd have thought they bred buckers? I thought horses were naturally buckers until they'd been tamed - but what can you expect from a city slicker, like me, eh? Then a group of young women on horseback galloped into the ring brandishing flags - the Maple Leaf, the Stars and Stripes, the British Columbian sun and those of the rodeo sponsors including clothing lines, soft drink and beer manufacturers, truck sales, and the Canadian Armed Forces. Once the girls had galloped round the ring a few times in various formations, a group of VIPs paraded into the grounds and a singer sung the two national anthems with a microphone - first the “José, can you see?”, through which most people were silent, and then “Oh! Canada,” which all we Canucks sung lustily, perhaps in an effort to drown out the guest singer - or was it merely to show our national pride?.

Then it was starting time for the final competitions that had gone through their elimination rounds the two previous days. The first competition was to last eight seconds riding bareback on bucking horses (who seemed to have a ring of spikes tied around their back end - no wonder they were so ornery). There were eight competitors, of which one Canadian - an Albertan, and looking at the programme, through the very cowboy-like names, like Steve, Dusty, Tyler, Tilden, Kaycee, Heath, Chet, Wade, Cody, Jesse, Taos, Tyrell, Clayton, and Clint, from such places as Oregon, Texas, Nebraska, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, California, Idaho, North Dakota, Colorado, and one or two from BC and Alberta as well, I felt like a foreigner (or, at the least, very old). The winner of this competition was a 23 year-old Texan, called Tilden, with 91 points out of 100 and a prize of CDN$20,000! Even the two tied fifth place winners won CDN$3,000 each! Not a bad salary for eight seconds of work, eh?

For entertainment between this act and the next, a rodeo clown called Ricky Ticky Wanchuk walked into the ring with his leashed dog and a metal suitcase. He also had two young sidekicks dressed in the same garb as he and their act involved some explosions, a scarecrow, a live skunk, witty repartee together with the rodeo announcer and sling-shotting t-shirts into the crowd. Ricky was also much present in the stands throughout the whole show offering brightly coloured suckers, which he'd dig out from his very deep pockets.

Next up, was what they called “saddle bronc”, so basically the same thing as the “bareback”, though with a saddle to hold on to. This time, from among the eight American-only competitors, a young guy called Tyrell from Montana with 92 points was presented with the monster cheque for twenty grand. I note that all the competitors were male - is this for some valid reason - i.e. they are afraid if young women ride bucking horses they'll damage their ovaries???

Well, maybe so, because the only competition in which the cowgirls were allowed to show off their horse-riding skills was called “Ladies'Barrel Racing”. In this list of eight contestants, two were Canadians, from Alberta and BC respectively, nonetheless, it was still an American who won. Basically, their task was to steer their horse around three barrels placed in the form of a triangle in the quickest time possible. The scores of the top six varied from 15.14 to 15.37 seconds with a purdy little lady from North Dakota called Brittany taking the 20 thou prize cheque. So, think for a minute, here. What does this prove, really? The way I see it, in this occupation anyway, a woman has to work for fifteen seconds in order to earn the same amount of money that a man can earn in eight seconds. So much for women's lib and equal pay - I mean, no matter what the sex, they are still bouncing up and down on a thousand pounds of horse flesh, aren't they?

Next, it was the kiddies' turn. No horses for them - geeze!, that would be dangerous. I mean, some of them are only three years old! No, their competition was called “Mutton Bustin'” and consisted of lying down on top of a grown sheep and hanging on to handfuls of wool for dear life for at least six seconds. Ricky's sidekicks were on hand to chase the sheep that escaped. Unfortunately, I can't find the results of this competition on line, but apart from the minimum age of three years, you also have to weigh less than 45 pounds (so I guess that counts me out) and have to wear a protective helmet and safety vest - huh! Well at that age, probably everyone's a winner just for joining in, or, anyway, for having the courage to give it a try and see if maybe they have what it takes to become a bronco buster in the future. In any case, they had a group photo taken with real cowboys - one of them even in a bright pink shirt - now that's bravery for you!

Our next entertainment was provided by the five costumed Stewart siblings from Alberta - four girls and a boy aged 18, 16, 14, 13 and 8 respectively - who rode round the ring on and off their horses, standing on the top on one leg or two, hanging off the side, or two of them on the same horse doing these same tricks. Pretty impressive.

Finally, the pièce de résistance, the “Bull Riding”. Again eight contestants, this time half of them Canadians - three from Alberta and one from BC. Unfortunately, only one contestant scored enough points to make it onto the winners' list - a young fellow named Clayton from Texas with 85.5 points. What I like about the photos, above, is the amount of mucus streaming out from the bulls' nostrils. Now that's cool! Note: an average bull weighs about twice as much as an average horse, so when you fall off a bull you surely want to get away in a hurry - sadly I wasn't close enough - being confined to the visitor stands - to get these types of shots - the expression on the rider's face as he runs away from the bull after falling off. I wonder if the official photographers wearing “photographer” vests did. However, if you look close enough, you will note, like I did, that the horns of these bulls tend to curl backward so I suspect there is no real danger of being gored like the matadors in Spain during the bull-fighting season.

Well that's it for another year - saved me a trip to the Calgary Stampede, anyway. Hope y'all enjoy the photos.

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