Cody is the self-proclaimed Rodeo Capital of the World. It’s not that the city is looking for bragging rights, it’s absolutely true. Wyoming is the Cowboy State. It lives, eats, and breathes the cowboy life and rodeo is the official state sport. When you see someone walking down the street wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, it’s a real cowboy. They’ve earned the right to wear their gear, unlike in other states where it’s often just a fashion statement.
Just west of downtown Cody is Stampede Park, where every night from June 1 to August 31 you can see Cody Night Rodeo. Starting in 1938, it’s the longest running and only nightly rodeo in the world. There are also some September rodeos and the annual Cody Stampede, which has been running since 1921.
Collegiate Rodeo Competition
We arrived in Cody after the Cody Night Rodeo season, but we were fortunate enough to see a collegiate rodeo competition. Arriving at Stampede Park at 7pm, we paid the US$10 admission and walked through the gates. We walked around the arena past pens holding horses and cattle until we found our seats.
The participants rode out to the center of the arena on horses for the National Anthem and a short prayer. The action started shortly after at around 7:10.
The first competition featured bronc riding, where a rider had to stay on a bucking bronco for eight seconds without touching the horse with his free hand.
Next was bulldogging, or steer wrestling. This is where a rider on horseback chases a steer, jumps off the horse, and wrestles the steer to the ground by its horns.
Goat tying and barrel racing events for women also took place. In the goat tying event, the cowgirls would ride a horse out to a goat, dismount, flip the goat onto its back, and tie its legs. Barrel racing was an event to see which rider was the fastest to go around a set of barrels without knocking them over.
A mixed event with teams of men and women competing together occurred next. It was called team roping, where both team members ride on horseback and chase after a steer. The first rider has to rope the horns. When that task is complete, the second has to rope the back legs. A calf roping event for the men also took place.
The most dangerous event was the last one of the night. Bull riding works the same as bronc riding, but the riders are on a full-grown bull instead of a horse. I noticed that the horns of the bull were cut so they weren’t as sharp as they normally are. None of the riders that night could complete the eight seconds, and one of them was seriously injured after a bull knocked him off and kicked him in the head.
The rodeo finished after 10pm. It was a long yet entertaining night. Although I didn’t know anything about rodeos before attending this one, and I still don’t know anything about them, I’ve gained an appreciation for them and a lot of respect for the skill it takes to compete in one. This won’t be my last rodeo.