2023 Vacation Report: At the Rodeo

When Daniela realized we were heading to Utah once again, one item she had high on her list of things she wanted to do was “go to a rodeo.” Now, I’ve taken her to a rodeo before, but she was much younger and didn’t remember it. When I was growing up, I went to the Oakley Rodeo each summer when I went out to Utah. Was it something I loved with a passion? Not really. It was fun to be there with my cousins, and it was very different from things I did on the east coast, but it wasn’t something I was hooked on for life. Since growing up, I’d been back once (when I took Daniela and Tomas years before.)

MC and Denisa thought it would be fun as well, so it was decided. We’d go to a rodeo. Of course, I delayed getting tickets and by the time I was looking for them, the Oakley Rodeo was sold out. (Well, technically I could have bought tickets that were being resold for $300/seat, but . . . I don’t like rodeos that much. However, by the power of Google, I found tickets to the West Jordan Stampede on July 4th for a whopping $8/seat. That’s something I could get behind. They’d even have fireworks after, so we could be all patriotic and stuff.

The day of the rodeo arrived, and off we all went. MC and Daniela had a great time looking at the horses, and MC was excited to see what this all would be like. This is where I think I kind of failed as a parent. Rodeos are just something I take for granted. Explaining what a rodeo is like would be like explaining to someone about grass. There’s no real need to do it. But when you’re a ten-year-old girl from Maine, you most definitely do not know what to expect from a rodeo.

The rodeo ceremonies started with a big long speech about how awesome America was. This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. Not to typecast rodeo fans, but they tend to skew just a touch toward the conservative side, and patriotism is kind of a big deal to that crowd. (For the record, I love my country too. I just don’t believe there’s a worldwide contest for “Best Country,” and if there were, I don’t think America would be sweeping the categories.) But this was a rodeo, and it was the Fourth of July.

From there, they had a rodeo clown who was warming up the audience with some jokes. Let’s just say the jokes were . . . less than respectful than they could have been. Certainly no one would accuse that clown of being woke. If anything, he was slept. Not as slept as he could have been, but pretty darn drowsy.

But enough of that. The actual rodeo started with a sheep riding competition, where they put little kids (geared up with enough padding to protect an egg in a hailstorm) on sheep and then let the sheep go to see how long the kids could stay on the sheep. It’s like bull riding, but not. About half of the attempts ended with the kid in tears, and all of them ended after maybe two seconds of actual riding.

Denisa was Not Amused.

Which I get. I certainly wouldn’t plop one of my kids down on a sheep, regardless of the amount of padding. (Well, not when they were half the size of the sheep, at least. If Tomas or Daniela wants to get on a sheep now, more power to ’em.) Did it seem super safe? Not really. But then again, this was a rodeo. Compared to bull riding, this was a jaunty stroll through the countryside.

Then they went straight to calf roping. It was at this stage of the rodeo that the wheels fell off the “This will be a fun family activity” bus. MC was very much not happy with people throwing ropes around calves, then jerking them off their legs and typing those legs together. She grew less happy with every calf. (I really should have explained what a rodeo was better. Half of having a fun time is having the right expectations. Maybe more.) Denisa was already eyeing the exit, and I wouldn’t really have objected to leaving. (The tickets were $8, remember, and I’ve seen many rodeos.) However, I also knew Daniela very much wanted to see the rodeo, and would be less than pleased to duck out early.

This is why having two parents at an event makes things easier. Denisa took MC and headed to a nearby playground, and the event transition from a “Fun Family Activity” to a “Daddy Daughter Date” with Daniela. (That’s a lot of Ds.) Thankfully, things got back on track at that point. Denisa and MC were happy, Daniela was happy, and I was just fine.

It’s a good thing MC left when she did. Yes, the barrel racing was exciting, and I think she would have liked that, but she didn’t see the bull riding. In general, I have no beef with rodeos. All of the events are very focused around things people who raise cattle have to do to raise cattle well. I know where meat comes from, and I know what that involves. However, I’m stumped when it comes to bull riding. As near as I can tell, bull riding started on a dare, and that dare has continued to this day. We saw around ten attempts at staying on the bull for the whole time. I think one was successful. The other nine almost died. Nothing says “fun family time” like watching a man voluntarily get on 2,000 pounds of leather-encased rage, and then poking that bundle of anger with a stick.

The rodeo finished, and we met back up for the fireworks. Is Daniela a new convert to rodeos? Not really. I think she felt about it the same as I do. They’re fine and all, but we’re not heading out to buy our cowboy hats and boots and belt buckles just yet.

Leave a comment