Friday, September 30, 2011

Rodeo is a LIVING sport

Hi guys!
Sorry its been so long since my last post, the project has somewhat slowed down with the video footage, and I have mainly been working on the editing/production side behind the scenes! But-I plan on keeping this a running blog!

So, tonight I am headed with my roommate, Elizabeth Soloman to the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, which I am proud to announce that it is for the first time in 66, yes SIXTY SIX years is a PRO rodeo, PRCA sanctioned.

Congrats to Waller! I am so proud to know that rodeo is ALIVE and WELL.

Not only is it challenging the misconception that rodeo is a "dying" sport. Not only is Waller taking rodeo to the professional ranks, but they are also giving back to the cowboys. Each event winner will receive beautiful Montana Silversmith Buckles, they are eligible to receive gas cards by supporting the theme "Riding For The Ribbon" , which is endorsed by the Tough Enough To wear Pink. To top it off- They are putting in $3,000 added in each event.

Liz and I are carrying flags at the rodeo, and I would love for all rodeo enthusiasts in the Brazos Valley to come and see how professional rodeo is thriving in south east Texas!

Liz and I with Mr. and Mrs. Carr, the stock contractors and Mr. Cannon getting ready for the rodeo!

Come see us! Long Live Cowboys!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Queens and Calf Ropers

This past week I was able to meet with two outstanding representatives of the sport of rodeo who were able to clear up some of the confusions about Rodeo Queens and the event of Calf Roping.

 As I mentioned in my last post, I would be meeting with Lauren Graham, Miss Rodeo Texas 2011 who clarified exactly what the duties of being a rodeo queen were. After doing some research and polling of what a general misconception of rodeo royalty was, that rodeo queens can't ride a horse. Lauren was able to explain that horsemanship is worth 1/3 of the entire competition at Miss Rodeo Texas, and that the contestants ride horses they have never ridden before provided by the pageant. Also, she elaborated, that throughout her year of travels as Miss Rodeo Texas, she does not haul her own horse, and therefore must be able and qualified to ride whatever the stock contractor or rodeo committee provides. Needless to say, horsemanship is a necessity.

After asking her about the article in Texas Monthly, as far as how she thought the idea of the cowgirl had evolved and how it correlated to being a rodeo queen, she stated "We all are cowgirls, that is where we start out." She went on to elaborate that she felt the term cowgirl stays true to its original roots from those women who still to this day work the ranches and provide for their families.

And to top it off...She's an Aggie! Whoop!

On monday, I was able to hang out and ride awesome cutting horses with my hero, and rodeo legend, Tooter Waites!

Tooter was the first man to qualify for the NFR and College National Finals in the same year (1971-1972) and was able to explain in my video interview the things that have changed in the tie-down roping since the 1970's to better defend the safety of the animals.

"The calves are much smaller than they used to be" he said, "They don't hit the ground very hard, and the cowboys are not allowed to jerk them down like they used to... and the arena sizes have changed."

Tooter mentioned in the video that the calves are typically only tied once every rodeo and that there are many rules governed by the PRCA to protect them. Over 60, to be exact!

Needless to say, I always have an incredible time with him and I am intrigued by his cowboy stories. His love for his family is radiant, he speaks with honesty.  I am so thankful for our friendship!
 "She never shook the stars from their appointed courses, But she loved good men, and she rode good horses."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cowgirl Up: Texas Monthly

"Our Heroes Have Always Been Cowgirls" is printed boldly on the cover of the most recent Texas Monthly magazine, as the face of a true blue ranch hand, cowGIRL stares into what today's society perceives the title.

The preface of the article starts with this:"Sometimes it seems as if women are are almost invisible in the history of the west, but the truth is that they were there the whole time, working cattle, going up the trail, and building ranches all across Texas. Problem is, the only word we have to describe them makes you think of buckle bunnies or Nashville queens. I aim to change that."

Wow- talk about powerful. In the effort of trying to clear up some of the misconceptions of rodeo, I found this quite intriguing, and extremely relevant to my cause and project. Originally, the word "Cowgirl" had the connotation of grit, determination, and honor. However, the article elaborates that due to haute culture and Hollywood, the name has been corrupted to a derogatory term regarding them as buckle bunnies or trolling with turquoise.

The article is flooded with stories and photos of true working rural women, day workers, cattle ranchers, rodeo cowgirls, farriers, etc.

Perhaps there are many misconceptions of what cowgirls are and where the label is going, but after reading it is easy to see that we stand for fairness, hard work and forthrightness.

A little later today I will be interviewing another Texas Cowgirl, Lauren Graham, Miss Rodeo Texas 2011 who is the goodwill ambassador and spokeswoman for the professional sport of rodeo in the Lone Star State. I look forward to hearing her take on where the direction of the cowgirl lifestyle is headed.

Long Live Cowgirls!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

California Rodeo Salinas!

Finally got settled back in the Lone Star State after an absolutely exhilarating trip to the largest rodeo in California. It was so exciting to see some of my absolute best friends from my rodeo queen days, and see what rodeo is about on the west coast. Salinas puts on quite the show!!!

Ashley Hoffmann (Miss Rodeo California '09), Jenna Johnson Henry (Miss Rodeo Minnesota '09), Maegan Riddley (Miss Rodeo America '09) and myself were in the parade with Roger Haley, owner of Haley ranch in Ventura, California. We rode in a beautiful restored stage coach, pulled by two incredible mules, Patty and Pearl. The entire parade was pulled on horseback. Our outfits consisted of stunning 1920's retro western tops with matching tall shaft boots, courtesy of the Cowgirl Historical Foundation. We won 1st place in the parade!

Later that day, we actually got entered in the hide race on the Saturday afternoon performance of the rodeo! The hide race is a 3 person team, one being horse back dallied to a cowhide rug, and the other two teammates at the other end of the track. The horse and rider will then run to the end of the track, one person will jump on the hide and get drug back to the other side, then the horse and rider will return to the second person and repeat. The fastest time wins. The two fastest times from all the performances return to the finals on Sunday! Ashley and I made the fastest time of the week and qualified!!

That Saturday after the rodeo, we hosted a BBQ at Ashley's house, and invited about 80 people, mixed of rodeo contestants, past rodeo queens, Stanford graduates, professional tennis players, and potential Olympic swimmers. What a blend, right? Needless to say, we all were able to share stories about our lifestyles and hobbies. It was interesting to learn about training for the Olympics as well as being able to share what Rodeo has done in our lives as well as answer questions that were somewhat misunderstood about the sport.

On Sunday, Ashley and I competed with our awesome hide race puller, Billy Armaderes in the finals. We pulled off a win and I am proud to bring the buckle back to Texas!!!

Also going on in Salinas, was one of the largest and fastest motorcycle races at the segway. I have never seen so many motorcycles! On the plane ride home, I had the privilege of sitting next to one of the spectators, who was actually a racer here in Texas. As we shared our stories and pictures of our weekend adventures, he said to me "I have to ask, I just can't quite understand, isn't that calf roping pretty cruel?" perfect for this project! I explained to him the toughness of a calf's skin in comparison to humans, and how the calves were only tied for 6 seconds, and that there were many rules regarding excessive dragging etc.

I was able to get some great interviews with the girls reflecting on their years as rodeo queens and they were able to answer my questions with ease and grace. I can't thank everyone enough for making my Salinas "Ro-Day-Oh" California trip a great one!!!

Salinas or Bust!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Clearing the confusion... Canadian friends!

So sorry its been a while!!!! BUT, this is kind of a fun update, and I promise it will make up for the time missed!!!
Last week, I met a group of Canadian fire fighters who are going to school here in College Station (We have the best fire school in North America) and one of them came over one afternoon to watch the Stanley Cup. I was enlightened with an abundance of knowledge of hockey...It also became a joke that they were going to take me ice skating, and being that I am from south Texas, and have little to any coordination, this would be a site to see!

But back to the story- When my friend walked in, he was immediately shocked by the cowhide rug on my floor. "What kind of animal is thhhattt?" he said. I explained to him that it was a cowhide was given to me during my year as Miss Rodeo Texas.

Then he noticed my boots and spurs by the door, and said:
"Oh my gosh! What are those metal things? You kick the bull with that?"

I explained that I used my spurs to cue my horse, as well as for encouragement to increase speed. I told him that rough stock cowboys use spurs to help enhance bucking action in the ride.

"But doesn't it hurt?" he said.

With that, I took my finger and kind of poked his rib and asked him, "Well, does that hurt?" and he responded "No, but those spurs are metal." This gave me a GREAT opportunity to go back to the cowhide. I picked it up and showed him how much thicker a cowhide is compared to a humans.

I was enlightened about hockey. He was enlightened about rodeo. A neat trade.

Although this wasn't at a rodeo, it simply goes to show how uninformed so many people are in regards to the factual aspects of the sport. I was so excited that he got to physically touch a real cowhide to see in perspective the thickness.

On a different note---I am heading to San Antonio today! The Miss Rodeo Texas Pageant has been going on this week, and tomorrow the Miss Rodeo Texas, Miss Rodeo Texas Teen and Miss Rodeo Texas Princess will be selected.

Not only is it exciting to get to go back and be apart of such an amazing organization that completely changed my life, but I also have the incredible opportunity to EMCEE the coronation with Fox News's Mike Oesterhage!

Along with the other exhilarating events, I will be gathering LOTS of interviews and video footage to help challenge other rodeo misconceptions. I hope to chat with the new rodeo royalty, Keith Martin, Ben Bendele,  and Tooter Waites,  just to name a few!!!

Hard to believe that just one year ago, I was finishing up my year as MRT...

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Future: Princesses and the Texas Jr. High Rodeo Association State Finals

Phew! Just got home from where the best of the best middle school age rodeo contestants have begun their quest in winning that state championship gold buckle.

After having the privilege of judging the state Junior High Rodeo Princess Pageant, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to challenge the misconception that "Rodeo is a dying sport". After the judging was done, I was also able to gather some information from the girls who are facing challenges among their peers who are not rodeo contestants. They all agreed that sometimes in school, their friends might express that rodeo is just not a so called "cool" sport. This allowed me to question the girls further in having them define their roles as Princesses, since it is a common misconception that the pageant side of rodeo are simply girls with nothing more than a pretty face.

Before the crowning of the new TJHRA Princess, I was able to visit with the contestants and see what their take was on the notion that rodeo is a dying sport. All of the girls seemed floored when I asked the question, and defended it tooth and nail. Dakota, the Region 10 Princess pointed to the door and said "Just look at the line to get in, there are so many people here to see!" The girls were right, the stands immediately filled up.

Most of the girls explained that only one, if not both of their parents had not been extremely involved in the sport prior. This was proof that the sport is growing and has future with new faces.

Below are the contestants, along with the 2010 Miss Rodeo Texas Princess, Kennady Johnson and Miss THJRA Princess, Sissy Winn

The young ladies explained that their role as Princesses was to spread awareness of the sport to encourage other young people to get involved. This drew a picture, that the foundation of the sport starts at the youth level.

The selection of the princess is divided into the following categories: Speech, Modeling, Interview, Impromptu, Appearance, Horsemanship, Test and Congeniality. Talk about a lot to know for middle schoolers.

The contestants nervously awaiting the results.

And your new Miss TJHRA Princess is... Whitlee Reed!

Making her first "Princess Run" at the first performance of the finals

After the awards ceremony I was able to get a video interview of Whitlee and talk to her about what it took to earn the title and her duties would be for the year. She was so anxious to get started! She explained that it took a lot of hard work and studying, much more than most people think. She told me she was excited to speak at schools and get other kids her age excited about the sport.
This little cowgirl was beaming with joy, ready to show the world what the sport she lives and breathes for is all about. I must say, all of the contestants were much, much more than just a Pretty Face.

I'd like to say a special thanks to the Graham family for allowing me to interview the girls after the pageant!

I will follow up this post with interviews from the Miss Texas High School Rodeo as well as Miss Rodeo Texas regarding the royalty of rodeo. 

Happy Trails!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bullfighters, Barrel Men, Clowns: Differences and Clearing Delusions

Survived my first outing for interviews!

I had a wonderful trip to the piney woods of east Texas, where I met up with some of the industry's finest barrel men, bullfighters, clowns, and contestants at the Jasper Lions Club Rodeo. Everyone was very welcoming and the guys definitely gave some great perspectives challenging the false impressions of their respected areas of rodeo.

Meet my first interviewees: Wacey Munsell and Aaron Ferguson-PRCA Bullfighters
Wacey resides in Ulysses, Ks and is a 3rd generation, World Champion Free Style Bull Fighter. I got a FANTASTIC interview with him, as he was able to greatly define the difference between a rodeo clown and a bullfighter. He explained that even though the bullfighters wear face paint, it is their job to be "Cowboy Life Savers" and distract the bull away from the bull rider to allow him to get to safety after the dismount of the bull. Wacey also defended the misconception that bull fighters have a bad "rap" of being involved in drugs and having lower morals and values. Wacey said that it would be physically impossible for him to preform his job, because being a bullfighter takes great physical shape to run, and have the endurance to work long rodeos. Notice Wacey's shirt: He takes pride in being a supporter of the "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" nights, and carries cowboy Christian books with him in his travels.

Aaron, the Canadian Bull Fighter, is from just south of Calgary in a town called High River, but currently resides in Ada, Oklahoma. Aaron was great to work with and was able to explain with ease the physical strength it takes to be a bull fighter. Playing hockey since he was three, Aaron explains that he does cardio and plyometrics to train his body to do his job. "The more physically fit you are, the less you are prone to injuries", he said. Furthermore, Aaron clarified that the reason bullfighters wear face paint, is a traditional thing that has carried over from the old days. He also said that the kids love it, and that they are always willing to sign autographs and spend time with the fans. Aaron proves to be a great role model and made clear that there are always a few bad apples in a bunch, but "Rodeo is just a group of GOOD people."

Introducing, The Barrel Man: Andy North

Andy lives in Piedmont, OK, where he is a PRCA bullfighter, barrel man and clown, depending on the specific rodeo. In Jasper, he served as a barrel man, where he explained that his job was to entertain the crowd in times of void, but most importantly to serve as a "safe haven" for cowboys and sometimes jump in as a third bullfighter. Andy was great to elucidate that Rodeo Cowboys lead other lives beyond the arena. He is a middle school principal in Oklahoma, as well as a part time Red Dirt Country Singer. His passion for his job and his family was incandescent as he spoke. He vividly illuminated the camaraderie and compassion the bullfighters and barrel men have for each other, and was proud to defend that the foundation sport is on a basis of good values.
Andy, allowing the bull fighter to jump the barrel to escape the bull!

Wacey diverting the bull away from the cowboy.

Thanks guys for helping me with this project! What a fun rodeo! Can't wait to get started on the videos!

Happy Trails!