Despite recent flare-ups over the rights to the August Rodeo, the only thing flaring at the 2010 Gary Hardt Memorial Spring Rodeo were the cowboys and stock, anxious to put on a show for some 1,200 spectators.
And quite a show the 196 competitors put on. From bull riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling and team roping events, riders were kicking up dust and putting it all on the line for bragging rights and cash prizes.
The Spring Rodeo kicked off Friday night with the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” performance, where cowboys and fans alike wore pink attire to raise funds for breast cancer research and support.
For every fan wearing pink, $1 was donated, and for every contestant, $3. At last year’s event, organizers raised $5,000.
“It was a humdinger of a rodeo,” said John Landino, with the Payson Pro-Rodeo Committee, which presented the event.
While the stands were littered with highlights of pink, the real highlight of the night were the rodeo clowns, who kept the crowd entertained between riders and events with stunts and bad jokes.
John Beck, a professional rodeo clown and barrelman with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, was among the clowns, along with announcers Reed Flake and Rob Schmidt.
Although the jokes were corny, they managed to keep the crowd energized. Skits included introducing the “ugliest, smelliest” person at the event. This “disgusting” person came out cloaked in a sheet. Several cowboys lifted the sheet only to faint from the sight. The skit ended when the last person that looked under the sheet caused the person under the sheet to fall. The crowd got noisy when two clowns on their “honeymoon” to Payson came out in a stunt car and set off a round of fireworks.
While the rodeo clowns put on quite a show, they were there for more than entertainment. When cowboys finish an event, they are often left precariously in the middle of the arena, vulnerable to being stepped on or rammed by a bucking bronco. Clowns protect cowboys by distracting the beasts, giving riders enough time to hightail it to the chutes.
More amazing than the rodeo or clowns were the vendors. This year, spectators had more food options, with Indian fry bread, funnel cake, turkey legs, kettle corn, hot dogs, cotton candy and Mexican food vendors, just to name a few.
Getting tough in pink
Although the color pink isn’t normally associated with courage, strength or determination, you wouldn’t have guessed it at Friday’s show, with some of the toughest cowboys donning the color to help fight a beast fiercer than any bull in the ring.
Wrangler established the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” campaign in 2005, after the 2004 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR). At that event, team roper Wade Wheatley wore a pink shirt to support his mother, cancer survivor Terry Wheatley. Wade convinced fellow riders to join him and Wrangler soon produced enough pink shirts so every NFR contestant could support the cause.
Wrangler has since given approximately $2 million to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a foundation dedicated to education and research about causes, treatment, and the search for a cure for breast cancer. Funds collected by the campaign at the corporate level go to Susan G. Komen, funds raised at local events go to local efforts.
Next up for the rodeo committee is the planning of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo, which takes place in August. Landino said the committee has been planning the event since November, after the chamber of commerce sold the rights to the rodeo. Landino said the committee has only “a few loose ends” to tie up before the four-day rodeo kicks off.
The committee plans to use the Salt River Rodeo as the stock contractor for the August Doin’s, the same contractor used at the Spring Rodeo.