MARSHALL - It is said rodeo is the only sport based on an industry. Skills necessary for working cowboys were transformed in the 19th century into an exciting sport enjoyed by rural folk and city folk, young and old.
On Thursday evening the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo opened at the Lyon County Fair, and the stands were packed.
Some rodeo fans are experienced riders with an eye for the level of horsemanship, but the sport is enjoyed by a great many people who have never sat on the back of a horse.
Photo by Steve Browne
A flag ceremony opens the first day of Barnes PRCA rodeo competition Thursday at the Lyon County Fair.
Terri Williams used to ride and show horses.
"But not anymore," Williams said. "I got married. I've been a rodeo fan all my life. For me it's just the love of horses."
Terri Williams came to the rodeo with her daughter, Megan, 16.
"I've been coming all my life," Megan Williams said.
Terri Williams said maybe it wasn't all her daughter's life, but certainly since they started having rodeos in Russell.
Undeniably, part of the excitement of rodeo is the active nature of the sport. Paul Jansen said this was his fifth live rodeo, but he's been watching rodeo on television all his life, and he tries not to miss the national finals.
"I like the fact these cowboys are on the edge of risking their lives, and just on the edge of violence," Jansen said. "I also like the grand entry and the prayer in Jesus' name, one of only two pro sports that do that. NASCAR is the other."
The action is probably what attracts a new generation to the sport, long after the days of cattle drives and open range.
Anthony Sperl, 6, came to the rodeo with his mother, Jessica.
"I like it when the horses are bucking and the guys fall off," Anthony Sperl said.
Asked what she liked about rodeo, Jessica Sperl said, "I like watching his face. I first took him three years ago just because he wants to be a cowboy and I thought the rodeo would be perfect."
Anthony Sperl doesn't just watch, last year he competed in mutton busting. He was too late to register this year, but his mom said she was hoping they could get him in later.
And it seems, everybody loves a cowboy. Volunteer ticket sellers Jan Janssen and Sue Muenchow from the Tracy Lions donated their time to help organize and run the show, for charity's sake, but also because they like the rodeo.
"You betcha I do," Janssen said. "I like the cowboys, the boots and the hat."
Janssen and Muenchow have grandchildren who are rodeo fans and involved in 4-H.
"I like pretty much everything," Muenchow said. "The mutton busting is darling."
Jan Janssen's husband, Darrel, was also volunteering at the rodeo, taking tickets and marking hands.
"I like all the competition," Darrel Janssen said. "I'm an old cowboy from back in (South) Dakota."
What stands out in a rodeo crowd is how both men and women, young and old, enjoy the sport in such numbers.
Bra'ja Torry is a shy 4-year-old who came with her dad. Asked what she liked about the rodeo, she replied simply, "The horses, the cowgirls."