In some ways the Rodeo is a spin off of the Fair, the concentration on the rodeo started by chance when I was at the Cumberland County Fair in 2013. On the far side of the horse racing track there are a series of barns and an event area. That year I wandered over in time to see what appeared to be small town rodeo. Competitors from around the Northeast doing the things that one would expect a rodeo competition to consist of, barrel racing, calf roping, team calf roping, bronco riding and, at the end, bull riding. There was an MC and various ‘clowns’, made up to look like…well, clowns, but whose job it was to protect the riders from the animals. I went back in 2015 with the specific goal of watching the rodeo carefully in an effort to deconstruct what was going on. Same MC, some of the same clowns, a lot of the same jokes and the same incongruous mix of country, rap and various states of beat driving rock n roll. Almost by accident, almost, I reread Roland Barthes’ essay in Mythologies about Professional Wrestling.
The second time around the show put on by the rodeo company suddenly seems a little more calculated, a lot of the competitors also appear in other roles as clowns, flag ladies, livestock handlers. The routines are really polished, but also don’t vary much from show to show. It would be really easy to liken all of this to an outdoor version of the WWF, and its derivatives, professional wrestling that we see on Saturday afternoon television…or like the spectacle of the Luchadors that are so popular in Mexico and the US Sunbelt.