Rodeo lassos thousands
JANESVILLE The first rodeo at the Rock County 4-H Fair in many decades was a rollicking success, if numbers are any measure.
Well over 2,000 spectators nearly filled the grandstand for the first of two shows.
The second show was even more packed, said fair board President Bob Arndt.
The crowd witnessed bronc riding, calf roping, barrel riding, bull riding and more.
For the first time in recent memory, the fair charged a separate admission price to get into the grandstand—$6—but lowered the fair-admission price to $5. Also a rarity: there was no professional music act to wrap up fair week.
Instead, it was “America’s original extreme sport,” as the rodeo announcer termed it.
The show started with mentions of local sponsors and a tribute “to the greatest country in the world” and its flag.
There was also a tribute to servicemen and women, whom politicians often forget, according to the announcer. Riders entered the arena carrying flags honoring the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Then there was a prayer. “A cowboy always gives thanks for a good horse,” the announcer said.
Preliminaries done, the bronc riding began. The first rider leaned so far back his head slammed repeatedly against the horse’s back.
It was easy to see why riders wore neck protection along with the traditional leg-protecting chaps. Bull riders wore helmets. Some had shin guards inside their cowboy boots.
One bronc rider’s foot got caught in the stirrup, resulting what looked like a vicious twist to his knee.
He hobbled out of the arena and could be seen sitting on a fence, grimacing.
That seemed to be the worst of the show’s injuries.
At one point, a horse refused to leave the chute, despite several seconds of slaps and kicks.
The horse was moved to a second chute and performed with no problem.
A clown and the announcer kept up a steady, homespun banter and jokes to fill the time between events.
The crowd appeared to enjoy the 90-minute spectacle.
Cheyanna Becherer, 13, of Brodhead, said she’d been to quite a few rodeos, and this one was well organized, without annoying lags between events.
“They put on a top-notch pro rodeo,” agreed Kelsea Dodd, a barrel rider from southern Illinois who competed in the second show.
Lisa McDonald of Janesville had never seen a rodeo before, and she liked it.
“Probably because I live on a beef farm, I like the calf roping,” McDonald said.
“It was really fun, and it was really different, said Jake Grayless, 11, of Orfordville, also a first-time rodeo-goer.
“I liked the unpredictability of it,” said Renee Bjugstad of Evansville. “I’m glad they tried something new and different.”
The show was put on by Great Lakes Pro Rodeo, and it wasn’t just demonstrations of rodeo skills. It was a serious competition.
Competitor Rylie Hoffman, 24, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said each event had a purse of about $1,000, with the winnings split among four to six competitors, depending on the number of competitors in the event.
A cowboy can bring in as little as $1 and as much as $20,000 “in a good year” on the Great Lakes circuit, Hoffman said, but much more if he ascends to higher levels of the sport.
Hoffman, 24, has another job to make ends meet. He is a construction worker.
Two Janesville-area men, Daniel Ochs and Brad Thom, competed in team calf roping but did not score because a lasso missed its mark.
In the second show, Jess Hume of Orfordville, a longtime rodeo competitor, had similar luck.
But Hume was pleased the show went over so well. “They had a heck of a crowd tonight,” he said.
After the first show, the horses, bulls and younger cattle were let loose in the sunny arena, where they lolled around peacefully as if nothing had happened.