Over the last couple of weeks a buzz could be heard in the air as people and businesses around San Angelo started to make preparations for the biggest event of the year to come to town: The San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo. This thing is huge in so many ways. First, it brings in a ton of money for the local economy. Last year it was estimated that $6 million was added to the local economic bottom-line. And secondly, we here at the Standard-Times are on a runaway train of coverage that has at least two people in the office writing or taking photos everyday of the rodeo performances, stock show, midway and the carnival.
Last night was the opening performance of the rodeo and my fellow photographer Andrew Mitchell and I were going to tag-team the event. My plan this year is to have two photographers out at the Foster Communications Coliseum on days that there is only one performance. The reason behind that is the late rodeo performances all start at 7:30pm giving us about an hours worth of shooting before we have to pull away and start editing to transmit back to the office for deadline at 8:45pm. My thought was if we have two photographers, one photographer can edit and transmit while the other continues shooting so as not to miss any of the action.
The first rodeo performance is always a trial run for me so I can figure out what the opening act is going to be like, what pyrotechnics are going to be deployed and to see what kind of lighting is going to be used. I can use that information to determine where the best vantage point is going to be to get different photos each night I'm there. I always feel by the fourth performance I've run out of options and I'm just regurgitating the same image over and over again. This year's opening act is pretty good, nice pyrotechnics, but I would like to see a little more live action than just fireworks.
After the opening lights show the crowd is introduced to Boyd Polhamus, the voice of the rodeo. He's the guy who talks to the crowd during the performance, jokes with the rodeo clown and gives background on all the competitors as they're about to make their run or ride. And he is amazing at what he does and he does it all on horseback in the arena.
So, Boyd does his thing and now it's time for the action. Since 2004, when I first started covering this rodeo, the format has always been the same. A section of bull riding gets the show started, then maybe a little steer wresting and then back to the chutes for some bareback riding and so on. This year the show was kicked off with bareback riding right from the start. I wholeheartedly believe that bareback riding is the most damaging event in the rodeo on the human body. Yes, even more damaging than bull riding. Yes, I'm a layperson on the sport of rodeo, but just from a simple observation anyone can see what I mean. A bareback rider's body is smacked and smashed in so many ways it's a wonder they even get up and walk away from the beating. In my ten years of covering the rodeo, I've never seen a cowboy walk off the arena floor without a limp or cradling the arm they use to hold on to the horse in agony.
Positioned between the various events are small side exhibitions like a performance from the San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo Ambassadors, a skit by rodeo clown Keith Isley and mutton bustin' (a fan favorite). The atmosphere is family friendly and highly energetic. The end of this year's show is capped off with bull riding. For me personally, the riding portion of the event is fine, but it's the scramble the cowboys have to do to get away from the bull that's the most fun. It's as if the bull is looking for a fight once it's free of it's rider, seeking to get a little payback for being sat upon in the first place.
All in all, my first night at the opening performance was pretty cool. I'm glad to be back in the saddle, as it were, of covering the biggest event of the year here in San Angelo. I'm hoping to be able to cover more performances this year than I did last year. Last year I only got to cover one, maybe two if I'm remembering correctly, because I was relegated to covering high school basketball playoffs. I'll be doing some of that as well this year, too, but I'll be putting a healthy dose of rodeo coverage on my plate.