Though a capacity crowd for the opening night of the Cody Nite Rodeo was only 600 people, you would never know the arena was less than a quarter full when it roared for the cowboys and cowgirls who put on Saturday night’s show.
The Miller clan was new to the rodeo scene but excited to see the bulls in action.
“I’ve watched them on TV for years,” said family matriarch Dawn Miller. “So it’s fun to be at the rodeo instead of just watching it on TV.”
People from across the country came to see the Nite Rodeo, including from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana and North Carolina.
Kristin Wachob was excited to return to Wyoming. After living in Jackson more than a decade ago, she and 11 family members made the trek west from Fort Bragg, N.C., where her husband’s military career had taken them.
“We have loved our time in Cody; (we) think it’s a great town,” Wachob said. “We love the Wyoming feel and the wind and the sage and the canyon. We love Wyoming. It’s good to be here.”
It wasn’t just travelers from around the nation who stopped in. Local celebrity Kanye West came to watch as well.
Overcast skies threatened rain for early arrivals to the grounds, but the main event stayed dry.
The rodeo had something for everyone, but it was the animals that won the night. The only rough stock rider to make it a full 8 seconds was Sebastian Hotalen on a saddle bronc known as Moody Blues. He earned 83 points on a ride where he looked more like he was lounging in a La-Z-Boy than seated on a spinning horse.
The bulls and steers were extra ornery on Saturday night, dumping riders before they even left the chute on more than one occasion.
A steer named Mongrel stole the show, giving the bullfighters and pickup men a run for their money as the angry bovine charged them. It took them more than a few minutes to get the creature out of the arena, but not before the evening’s clown, Ty “Stormin’ Norman” Stewart, got a good shot in from 10 yards with his hat.
Top-15-ranked Jake Hamilton looked like he would have the time to win in tie-down roping at 11.5 seconds, but Montana circuit champion Bryce Bott had his calf down a jiffy faster, taking home the honors in that event for the night in 11 seconds flat.
The ladies of rodeo had the fiercest competition on Saturday. Breakaway roping saw a two-way tie at just 2.6 seconds for Manchi Nace and Kaylee Billingsley, with Hadley Tate, daughter of stock contractor Maury Tate, coming in third on the night at 3.4 seconds.
It came down to the end in barrel racing, with racer Desiree Cooper coming in at 17.6 seconds, finishing just ahead of final rider Maddie Fantasky (17.78 seconds). Junior barrel racer Cashlyn Cooper led that field with a time of 18.33.
Team roping saw its share of penalties and wave-offs. Pickup men JT and Scott Collingwood looked like they were going to run away with the contest after an initial time of 7.9 seconds, but two five-second penalties pushed them into second behind Will Griffel and Jesse Hines.
Bull riding lived up to its billing as the most dangerous sport in the world, with riders being dumped into the chutes and more than a little bit of hooking.
David Richardson, 17, made it 7.97 seconds but couldn’t quite hang on until the end.
“The bull got around me, got my elbow behind me and my hips out of place,” the Ohio native said. “Once that happens, they have all the power. You gotta almost be perfect with them.”
The people in the stands didn’t seem bothered that only one rider made it to the buzzer in the rough stock events. When Stewart, the rodeo clown, asked the crowd who they were rooting for, there was no question that the people were rooting for the bulls.
More specifically, they wanted to see the bulls and steers hit the clown in the barrel, a desire a steer named Dragonslayer was only too happy to oblige.