It’s not one thing that attracts people to the rodeo.
No, there are many.
“We just came to see the horseys,” said Aubrey Steele at Friday night’s performance of the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo at the Payson Event Center.
The young girl sat in the stands with her sisters, Emily and Reagan, their mother, Allison, and their grandfather, Brian Steele. Allison’s husband couldn’t get to the rodeo before it started but was heading up to join his family as soon as he finished work in Gilbert.
Indeed, the horses rank high on the list of things that people come to see at the rodeo and horses play a variety of roles in rodeos.
There are horses from the Salt River Rodeo Company that are used in the bareback and saddle bronc events. Rodeo royalty, wranglers and cowboys all have specially trained horses for the team roping, tie-down calf roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing events.
Emily Steele came to watch the women compete in barrel racing because she’s hoping to get involved in that event in the future. They live in Gilbert but Brian has a second home in Rim Country and the family recently bought a horse, which they’re boarding in Star Valley.
But horses aren’t the only thing that interested the Steele girls this night. What’s a rodeo without cotton candy? You could tell young Reagan is a big fan of the stuff because she was wearing some on her face. And Emily couldn’t resist taking some for herself, which prompted both girls to share a big laugh. Aubrey resisted the blue cotton candy. Judging by her pink cowgirl hat, she would have preferred pink.
While many fans love barrel racing, others can’t wait for either the tie-down calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, bareback and saddle bronc riding and, of course, bull riding, which always ends each performance.
It’s the bull riding that Kim Maxwell, of Taylor, came to see, along with her grandchildren, Jordan and Braxton. Kim is married to bullfighter Clifford Maxwell, who teams up with Luke Kraut to keep thrown bull riders safe by distracting the bulls after a rider has been thrown, allowing him to get up and out of harm’s way.
The four of them drove to Payson together and planned to drive back to Taylor on Friday night and return again for the final performance on Saturday.
“I try to go with him as often as I can,” Kim said.
She and her grandchildren watch from beneath their warm blanket on a chilly night with temperatures flirting to drop into the 40s.
“It’s cold,” Kim said.
Kim said there’s nothing more family friendly than rodeo.
“It’s just one big family,” she said. “We’ve done it for 30 years. It’s just a good way to grow up and bring them up. I team rope and (Jordan’s) starting to junior rodeo and (Braxton’s) just rodeoed for years.”
Of course, what would a rodeo be without a clown? Fortunately, the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee has been able to feature one of the best in the business, Donnie Landis. Landis once again provided the comic relief with his jokes and skits throughout the weekend.