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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Sonoita Rodeo: a taste of Tucson’s rodeo future


    Southern Arizonans take the rodeo seriously.

    Each September, the sleepy town of Sonoita grows in size by the hundreds with rodeo competitors coming from all across the state and country to contend with the best for big cash prizes.

    Forty miles southeast of Tucson, tucked up in the rolling hills, Sonoita’s fairgrounds were bustling with excited rodeo-goers this weekend. This year, hundreds of spectators, dressed in their best cowboy fashion, watched the rodeo’s various competitions. And more than 700 participants entered competitive events such as barrel racing, team roping, steer wrestling and bull riding for the chance to win $40,000 in cash and prizes.

    Rebecca Kenner, a 15-year barrel racing veteran and participant at the Sonoita Rodeo, explained that her strategy is to “Never lay your cowboy hat on your bed.” Kenner also revealed that she never wears matching socks on rodeo day for good luck.

    Kenner, a rodeo queen from Colorado, said it takes personality, charisma and horsemanship to win the rodeo queen competition (for women) or princess competition (for girls).

    Picking out the best Western clothing, being up on current events for the interview and studying horse anatomy and the rodeo rules will help any lady win this rodeo beauty pageant of sorts.

    Over the years, Kenner and her horse have developed a close relationship in order to win several rodeos. Just like a college football player, Kenner studies films of her performances in the rodeo in order to improve her barrel racing time.

    “Pulling a name out of a hat” and the “luck of the draw” refers to how riders select their bull or bronco. After that, there’s no turning back. Once in the chute, the rider secures their hat and acknowledges the bucking girdle encircling their ride, which causes the bronco or bull to buck. With a raise of their hand, they signal they are ready, heading out on what’s often called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.”

    Adrenaline intensifies for each thrown cowboy as they scurry to get out of the arena before the bull turns around to trample or charge.

    “My hairline is making a beeline for my behind,” the announcer said about the startling incidents, earning nervous chuckles from the crowd. Some cowboys aren’t quitelucky and in rodeo, superstition plays a role.

    But by mid-afternoon, the last buzzes of excitement descend upon the arena as people finish their races and earn their places. Horsemen and women and their loyal steeds and livestock are praised for a job well done.

    This weekend, Kenner and her horse rode in the barrel racing competition and landed high up in the ranks.

    “It’s all about chasing the rodeo,” she said. Kenner has followed the rodeo through New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming — but she prefers Arizona’s rodeos.

    Any Tucson native knows that local schools close for “rodeo week,” but if you have college classes, work, an exam or a paper, prepare early to take time off for the Tucson Rodeo in February 2012.

    The fantasy of the Old West is brought back to life in Tucson. Guaranteed you will find yourself near all the cowboy roughness, extreme bull riding and other astounding events, amid smells that will cause your mouth to water even while asking, “Who dealt it?”

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