Off To The Rodeo

ImageSo I guess I am a little bit country, and by now I have been for years.  When I say this let me clarify that I refer not to the musical genre, for which I harbor nearly total abhorrence.

What I am talking about is my yearly indulgence in the North Thompson Fall Fair & Rodeo.  Now in its 64th year, the festival has become quite familiar to me since meeting my wife, who grew up in the small municipality of Barriere that serves as host to the event.  This Labor Day weekend, the two of us attended as we usually do.

Cowboys and cowgirls were undoubtedly the stars of the whole thing, showing off their rural talents to packed bleachers.  The crowd applauded and hollered throughout events like cow roping, in which contestants expertly flung their lassos around scampering bovines in as little as just a couple of seconds.

Other parts of the rodeo placed the animals in the main spotlight, as with the heavy horse pull.  This contest showcased teams of two horses tugging increasingly weighted loads across the dirt floor of the arena.  The event came to a graceful end when the second place handlers withdrew their struggling team, sparing the steeds from overexertion.  The one remaining pair continued to tow their cargo with relative ease, winning the competition with a final weight of over 8,000 pounds.

The competitive portion of the day was broken up mid afternoon with an intermission featuring the impressive trick-riding feats of the Stewart family, who tore around the arena with an acrobatic flair.  The five young siblings dazzled a cheering crowd as they rode their horses upon two feet, dangling backwards, hanging alongside, and in other likewise daring manners.

The rest of the rodeo’s schedule included barrel racing, bull riding, and even lawnmower races.  Elsewhere on the grounds, eclectic concessions and agricultural displays abounded.  Interspersed among these were live music, carnival games, magic shows, and more.  Entertainment was accessible to all age groups and lifestyles.  Farm loving folk found themselves immersed in countryside paradise, while more urban people like myself got a taste of western lifestyle charm.

This is something that has been growing on me over the past decade.   Each year, whether or not the festival happens to actually land on its nominal season, I attend the North Thompson Fall Fair & Rodeo.  It is something I look forward to. Though you might never catch me in a cowboy hat and leather boots, there is a good chance that this time next year I’ll be going to the rodeo.

– Cory Magnus Stumpf

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