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La Fiesta de los Vaqueros

Tucson, Arizona: Tucson isn't a very attractive town. It is flat. Brown. Worn-down and worn-out describe most neighborhoods. But I just love Tucson. The people are so nice. The food is so good. The desert is so lovely. Saguaros! And there is always something going on in Tucson. There is a "spirit" in this town.

This week Tucson is hosting a huge rodeo and the postponed-by-snow World Match Play Golf Tournament. After exercising this morning, we decided to spend the afternoon at the 88th Annual Tucson Rodeo - La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, to avoid weekend rodeo crowds... so we could fight weekend crowds at the thawed-out golf tournament instead. I snapped 139 photos at the rodeo this afternoon, and will post about 30 on this website tonight, so please forgive if I only write captions on this huge bandwidth-sucking page tonight.The rodeo grounds - only two miles from our RV park - were a bit soggy after all the snow yesterday, but the weather cooperated and we only needed sweaters.

Sponsors Jack Daniel's and Coors were everywhere vending their goods. (Note the "No Guns Allowed" sign? They are everywhere in Arizona.)

Rodeo food!

DT spent the Big Bucks and bought seats in the most expensive section of the grandstands - $23. We had views directly to the chutes where the roughstock events started, a view of the snow-covered mountains north of town and a constant show of fighter jets practicing maneuvers from the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base over the skies of Tucson.

Prior to the National Anthem, the rodeo announcer waxed poetically about what a wonderful nation we live in and how there are soldiers in distant lands "preparing to take a bullet" to defend our right to carry a gun and pray together... then later awkwardly introduced astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a public forum in Tucson. Giffords and Kelly were Grand Marshalls of the Tucson Rodeo Parade, held earlier in the day. (Mark Kelly is pictured above, waving his hand to the crowd. Ms. Giffords was not at the rodeo.)

Before the competition, we were entertained by a group of ladies in matching outfits parading their horses in intricate maneuvers. I can best describe this event as "synchronized swimming on horseback".

The ladies must practice for hours!

Bareback Riding

The Tucson Rodeo has a half-million dollars in prize money! Did you know US rodeo is divided into 12 geographical circuits? The Tucson Rodeo is in the Turquoise Circuit, covering Arizona and New Mexico. If a cowboy wins his event in a circuit, he competes in the national championships.

I have no idea about rodeo or rodeo events. I imagine a cowboy at a track meet would be equally confused.

I learned there are two rodeo categories - Roughstock and Timed Events. Roughstock events are Bareback Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding and Bull Riding. The bucking horses and bulls are provided by a professional stock contractor. The cowboy receives half the score on his ride and the animal scores the other half - so cowboys want a wild bucker! The timed events at the Tucson Rodeo are Barrel Racing (women), Steer Wrestling, Team Roping and Tie-Down Roping.

In Steer Wrestling, a cowboy on horseback must chase a steer, hop off his horse and tackle the animal to the ground, pictured above.

This is Zander. Earlier in the day - after the parade and before the rodeo - Zander won a prize Mutton Busting - riding a sheep! Not only did he win a golden trophy, he was sporting a pretty fancy new silver belt buckle! I have never seen anyone so excited to witness a rodeo.

Here are a few shots of Saddle Bronc Riding:

This cowboy had a crazy-wild horse - off the ground most of his ride

Horse in charge

This cowboy left the arena in an ambulance - a very dangerous occupation

In Tie-Down Roping, the cowboy chases-down a steer or calf, and throws a lasso around the animals neck or horns. Then the cowboy jumps off his horse, turns the calf over and uses a small cord to tie any-three of the legs together. While the cowboy is roping the legs, his horse is keeping the lasso line taut. After the calf is tied-up, the cowboy must remount his horse, let the line go slack and wait for the calf to be still for six seconds! The horse is a true teammate in this contest. The process:

Another roping event is Team Roping - one cowboy lassos the horns/head and another lassos a back leg:

The only competitive event for women at the rodeo today was Barrel Racing. The ladies must race into the arena on their horse, circle three barrels and exit the arena. This all happens in about 18 seconds! Amazing. The arena was so soggy from the snow yesterday, the horses legs were buried in the dirt as they dug-in around the corners.

The fans were enjoying the rodeo - we found every event to be very interesting and something completely different from our everyday experience (except for the occasional steak, of course). Though full of western tradition, the Tucson Rodeo had fans dancing "Gangnam Style" and a rodeo clown was handing-out free Whataburgercoupons for the best dancers.

We did not win.

Dave's favorite rodeo event is Bull Riding, a sport that makes me shudder with fear and wonder why anyone would ever want to get on a crazed slab of beef.

These days, cowboys are smart and wear helmets and safety vests!

Until my next update, I remain, your rodeo correspondent.

RV PARK:  LazyDays RV Resort - Huge campground. Pull-through and back-in full-service sites, cable TV, free wifi, 2 pools, spa, fenced dog run, bathhouse, laundry, pickle ball, horse shoes, putting green, bocce ball, restaurant, bar and rally facilities. Camping World store and RV sales on-site. Security. We paid $41 per night with our Good Sam discount.