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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Advice for Greenhorns

Advice for Greenhorns


With the 60th Annual Oakdale Rodeo going on this weekend, you don’t want to miss out on all the fun. Whether you’re a seasoned spectator or a “greenhorn” like me, you’ll want to know what to keep your eye on and how to follow all the action in the arena.

After you put on your plaid shirt, the blue Wranglers that still remain rigid after all the washings, choose between your cowboy hat or John Deere ball cap with the curved bill, and pull on your ropers or western boots, grab yourself a cowgirl, cowboy or even a buckle bunny and load into the pick-up for a drive to the “Cowboy Capital of the World” rodeo grounds on East F Street in Oakdale.

Modern rodeos take place in a fenced, dirt surfaced area known as an arena. Surprisingly there are no standard sizes for arenas, but all of them contain bucking “chutes” and roping “chutes” – the area where the bucking bulls and broncs come out.

I am told that if you’re going to watch a rodeo, that the closer you are to the arena the better. The dirt kicking up, the yells from the participants, the smells of the animals (and some of the “riper” contestants) add to an overall sensory experience.

Like any sporting event, you should try to get a seat close to the center. It’s always best to sit where you are facing the chutes. Many that follow the sport regard the seats above the chutes as the best in the house. From these seats not only do you get a close up view of the events, but you also get to watch the cowboys as they prepare to ride.

The rodeo will start with a “Grand Entry.” Mounted riders, many carrying flags including the American flag, the California flag, and banners representing sponsors, enter the arena, circle once at a gallop, come to the center of the arena and stop while the remaining participants enter. The grand entry is used to introduce some of the competitors, officials, and sponsors. It is ended with the presentation of the American flag and the National Anthem.

The Oakdale Rodeo has the standard set of events that are divided into two categories; those which are scored by a judge – the “rough stock” events of bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding; and those which are timed for speed – cowgirls barrel racing, steer wrestling, and the roping contests.

The smooth-talking rodeo announcers are well-known voices of the rodeo circuit. Some of them are just as famous as the top cowboys and cowgirls participating in the event. The announcers take charge of the show and convey to the audience the happenings in the arena. In addition, announcers keep the crowd entertained between events, advertise the sponsors, explain the events, and support the many riders with calls for applause.

Will Rasmussen is this year’s announcer. His sense of humor and superior knowledge of the sport blend together for a quality presentation that enhances the rodeo experience.

During the rodeo, see if you can catch some of the traditional rider superstitions. Observe that the cowboys won’t wear yellow; it’s a sign of cowardice. Other superstitions include always shaving before an event, wearing different colored socks, and never kicking empty cups.

The day at the arena will be filled with excitement and fun that should keep you wanting to come back year after year.

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