Warkworth Western Weekend
(Dodge Rodeo Tour)

Warkworth Rodeo Re-Visited

Laurence Stephenson

by Festival Nomad Correspondent, Laurence Stephenson

Now in it's 17th year, the Warkworth Rodeo is part of the national Ram (as in truck) Rodeo Circuit. Participants vie for a place in this year's National Finals. It has a full menu of the regular contests (bronco, bull, calf roping, barrel racing, etc.) with equal time for Men's, Women's and Junior classes. As these are preliminary events, the average performance occasionally might not be quite as spectacular as the Finals but there are always exceptions with a couple of national record times being racked up this weekend. That being said, rodeo is always exciting and the risks taken here are no different from any level. Thrill a minute is an apt description and exceptional horse skills are a must at all levels.

The local organization if this Rodeo is excellent with convenient parking ($2 donation), indoor washrooms courtesy of the Warkworth Community Centre, excellent food concessions ( with a much needed shaded seating area. It was a hot one this weekend) and lots of activities to keep the kiddies entertained. If there was an area that might bear improvement, it was the quality of the other concessions. Some booths were wonderful, others less so. This is also in consideration of what is on display in Warkworth's commercial Main Street, just a block away which is of an exceedingly standard. Just like in the arena itself, there is no room for slacking at the Warkworth Rodeo.

Warkworth Western Weekend

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Ride ‘em Cowboy…

Warkworth is a small community northwest of Trenton. Each year, in July, Warkworth becomes “a little bit country”. That’s right, they hold the Warkworth Western Weekend and that means hosting Eastern Ontario’s “Biggest and Best Rodeo”. The Warkworth Western Weekend is part of the Dodge Rodeo Tour. Over 200 cowboys and cowgirls come to town to compete for a slice of prize money. The rodeo events include Bareback Riding, Calf Roping, Steer Wrestling, Saddle Bronc Riding, Bull Riding, Team Roping, Barrel Racing and Mutton Busting. The only live rodeo Judi and I had ever seen was at the Calgary Stampede and that was from quite a distance. So getting close to the action was going to be a great treat! We left our home on an overcast day. As we started out it began to rain a little. The shy didn’t look to bad north of us so we decided to take a chance on the weather. It was a good choice. The clouds faded away and the bright sun came out. It was a glorious day to go to a rodeo. We wound our way first north and then west to Warkworth. We passed through the centre of the village and found the road to the Fairgrounds. The grass parking lot was becoming full of excited rodeo goers. After parking the car we strolled up a slight hill. Over its knoll was the temporary rodeo arena. It was a little earlier to go into the arena so we decided to look at some of the booths that had been set up. Everything was western, cowboy hats, western belt buckles, western clothing and tack. After investigating the booths, we headed back to the arena. The participants were warming up, so it was time to find seats. We paid the admission fee of $15.00 each (under 12 - $10.00) and enter the arena. The excitement was building. The rodeo was about to begin…

Show Time…

Fortunately we were early enough to find great seats. Cowboys and cowgirls were riding in the area ring warming up their horses. Finally the signal was given and they all left the arena. Then a huge green tractor came through the east gate dragging a contraption that loosened the trampled earth in the arena. After several passes around the arena, the tractor left the arena. Several Dodge Rodeo staff walked the arena to make sure all was safe for the rodeo participants. The Master of Ceremonies rode into the arena and told the crowd what they could expect at today’s rodeo. While he was talking, Shorty Leggs, the rodeo clown, came onto the field and exchanged barbs with the MC. The crowd was now anxious for the rodeo to start. The east end gates opened and several cowgirls came galloping through the gates, flags waving in the breeze caused by the speed of their horses. They were followed by the remainder of the rodeo participants and then the Warkworth Western Weekend organizers. Introductions were made by the MC, followed by the Canadian National anthem. The crowd cheered and the ensemble left the ring. It was now time for the real action. The rodeo was about to begin…

The Rodeo Begins…

If you have never seen a rodeo up close and personal, you should. I’ve seen them on television and I’ve seen them at the Calgary Stampede, but I was far away and didn’t really get the full effect of the action. By the way, cowboys don’t normally win! The rodeo animals do! I am not a rodeo expert and I won’t even try to be, but I was there and I saw what I saw. Over the next few blogs I am going to try to give you an idea of each event, as I saw it. So don’t get upset if I get some of it wrong. If you know what’s right, let me know and I’ll correct what I have said, but don’t get mad at me! So, here goes. The first event was Bareback Bronc Riding, or trying to ride! The cowboy gets onto the back of the horse (the assistants are holding the horse calm or near calm in a gated enclosure) and straps his hand down. Once he is ready he nods and they open the gate. The horse, which is trained to buck, does just that. The rider has to stay on the horses back for 8 seconds. Not many did! Next came the Tie Down. I believe this is used in the field by cowboys to catch calves so that they can be branded or doctored. In the rodeo they try to catch the calf for time. The calf starts from a little pen at the one end of the ring. The participating cowboy is beside it in a different enclosure. On the other side is an assistant cowboy. His job is to try to keep the calf running straight (good luck!) It’s the first cowboy’s job to start after the calf, just after it has been released. If the cowboy moves too fast, he is disqualified. If his start is okay, he first tries to rope the calf. If he missed, he is disqualified. He jumps off his horse and hauls the calf off its legs. If he misses, he is disqualified. He then must tie 3 of the legs with a small rope. If he misses, he is disqualified! Once he has done all that, without being disqualified, he has to climb back on his horse, slacken the rope and hope than the calf can’t get up. If the calf gets up, he is disqualified. See the pattern! If he does all this right, he has to beat the time of any other cowboy(s) who does it right! By the way, did I mention that only the winning cowboy gets any prize money! The third event was the Jr. Steer Riding. Here a young cowboy and cowgirl climbs on the back of a steer, ties his/her hand down and then tries to ride for 8 seconds. The steer twist and buck and do whatever in takes to shake the young rider off… and for the most part the steer succeeded. Welcome to the rodeo my young friends!

The Torture Continues…

The forth event was Steer Wrestling. This is not like WWF, although some of the steers resemble WWF personalities. The event starts off a lot life Tie Down. The steer is put into a pen at one end of the ring. There is an assistant who tries to keep the steer running straight, and then there is the competition cowboy. The steer is let out first, then the cowboy. If the cowboy leaves too early, he receives a time penalty. Sound familiar? He races after the steer, catches up to it, leans over, grabs the steer by its horns, falls off his horse, digs his heels in, twists the steer’s neck and hopes it falls down! If he accomplishes all this, he has to have the lowest time to win. If he doesn’t do all this, HE IS DISQUALIFIED! Are you having fun being a cowboy yet!? After all the action and excitement it was time for some fun. Harvey Earl and his wonder horse entered the ring. Earl’s horse was amazing. He counted, bowed, played sick and stood with all four legs on a box. The crowd loved this beautiful horse and it humorous owner. It was then on to Ladies Break-A-Way. This event is a lot like the men’s calf roping (Tie Down Roping). The calf is released and the cowgirl pursues. She can’t start off too fast or she gets a time penalty, just like the boys! The cowgirl then has to rope the calf over its head. If she succeeds, she has to beat the other competitors’ times. If she doesn’t, you guessed it, she’s disqualified! Tough sport! Fortunately (their not stupid) the girls don’t jump off their horse and wrestle the calf down on to the ground! The final event before the intermission was Mutton Busting. A call had been put out to all the little kids to try their hand at riding a wooly lamb. The kids were dress in protection that a pro footballer would have been proud of. The rules for mutton busting are very simple. Be placed on the back of one of the lambs, hang on for dear life, let the lamb go and try to stay on for 8 seconds. The kids had a great time and no one knew or cared who stayed on for what time. All too soon this event was over and intermission started. The best was yet to come…

The Rodeo Continues…

After intermission it was the cowgirls’ time to shine. Barrel Racing is not for the weak of heart! The object is for each participant to ride their horse around 3 barrels without knocking them over (there are time penalties for knocked over barrels) and they have to do this for time. The fastest cowgirls, without any barrels knocked over wins. It is a sight to behold! The cowgirls come charging through the gates at full speed, head for one of the 2 side barrels, sweep around it and then heads for the next side barrel. Remember, this is at full speed! They then head for the end barrel sweep around it and head back to the starting gate. These girls mean business! The intensity of their faces is awe inspiring. It’s a wonder they don’t come flying out of their saddle as they make the dash back to the timing line! The quote “It takes to tango” applies to Team Roping. Two cowboys line up at the end of the ring with a penned steer in between them. The steer is released first. The same time penalties apply as in other events. The lead cowboy’s job is the rope the steer around the neck. The second cowboy tries, and I mean tries, to rope one of the steer’s hind legs. I am not sure how this really turns out, because all the steers avoided being caught! These steers are wily and don’t like to be roped (Steers 10 – Cowboys 0). The cowboys needed to be taught a lesson in roping! Enter, Harvey Earl, a trick roping master. Harvey, decked out in his fancy cowboy outfit immediately went to town. His tricks included one rope, two ropes, long ropes, skipping walking though the loop and sitting on his wonder horse. He was awesome to watch, and I hope the cowboys were taking notes. The final event, Bull Riding, is like going to a Demolition Derby. You know the cars are going to get wrecked, you just don’t know how badly! The idea here is just to survive for 8 second, jump off the bull and then run like hell. If you are lucky, you reach the fence and climb up it. If not, you hope that Shorty Leggs and his assistance can distract the bull long enough for you to be pulled out of harms way. This is a very exciting but dangerous sport. The cowboys are superb athletes who condition themselves to survive the abuse to their bodies. So, don’t try this at home! The Dodge Rodeo closed with a flourish. All the participants rode into the ring, flags waving. Adios to all the Warkworth Western Weekend cowboys and cowgirls!

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