Growing up in the west I have seen quite a few rodeos. I have always preferred small town rodeos.
I have seen the big rodeos, living in Tucson we attended the Tucson Rodeo several times. Six days of professional level events, riders competing for a chance at the national championships. No question, the competitors were very, very good.
The big rodeos do feature very high levels of performance, the top riders making it look easy. It isn’t of course, but professional level sports just seem contrived to me. Be it bull riding, pro football, or any professional sport, something is lost when it becomes a profession.
Small town rodeos are entirely different. Here cowboys, or paniolos in Hawaii, demonstrate the same skills they use day to day on the ranch. The event may be practiced, but the skills of great horsemanship, roping and riding are real. The scores tell another story, wildly different from rider to rider. These are not polished professionals, these are real cowboys.
The island rodeos are perfect examples of this, small town rodeos that showcase local ranching skills and traditions.
It has been a few years since we last attended the Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo and Horse Races. The last couple years we seem to have found ourselves elsewhere come early July. Last year we were in Alaska when the 4th appeared on the calendar. Not so this year, a couple tickets and an early alarm for a Saturday saw us headed to Waimea.
Good timing all around, a beautiful day with perfect weather for a rodeo. Deb and I moved about, looking for good photo opportunities. Down at the end of the spectator area for the horse races. From there we could shoot the riders coming around the curve of the track. A little elevation was needed to shoot over the rails of the fencing. Unfortunately a barrier now keeps spectators away from the arena fence, this was not there years ago. No shooting through the rail. Maybe a press pass next year?
I have no idea who won or lost, it was just not important to me. Simply watching the skills on display was the good part. Each throw of the rope, the steer going down, the horse neatly backing and keeping tension in a rope without a rider giving directions. Simply impressive to watch.