As people who grew up in coastal cities, I am not accustomed to Wild West cowboy culture, aside from what I’ve seen in TV and movies. But when international travel came to a halt in 2020, I packed up the car and drove through the Western US from my current Seattle home. Among our destinations was the city of Cody, Wyoming, known for its proximity to Yellowstone National Park as well as its nightly rodeo during the summer.
I had been to the Cheyenne rodeo with my family when I was a child, but my husband had never been. Also, I had been young enough that I didn’t really remember my first rodeo! It was an experience that we could not pass up, considering that it appeared to be a favorite of both locals and tourists. Going to a rodeo certainly felt like culture shock to a west coast native like me, but it piqued my interest.
As I entered the Cody Nite grandstands that August evening, the sun set beautifully over the mountains to the west, providing a stunning backdrop. Just as any other American sporting event, the crowd was warmed up with music; all country music, in this case. Under the circumstances, admission was limited, and families were arranging themselves at a distance from each other, but there was still a positive vibe. Between the upbeat music and the energetic announcers, everyone seemed to be in a great mood!
Right as the announcers got everyone to their feet for the National Anthem, the crowd went silent as a horse gently paraded around the field. Moments later, the initial events got underway, which ranged from bull riding to bareback riding to team roping. When I first read the listing of event types, it all felt foreign, since I was more accustomed to standard team sports such as baseball. Yet the competitiveness and the drive that I saw in the participants made me realize that rodeo is indeed a serious sport! I can’t imagine the years of training required for these types of events.
Individuals of all ages competed in the events, but the majority seemed to be on the younger side. Some were locals, and some came from out of state – the announcer proudly let us know each competitor’s name and home as they entered the ring. This was not just an opportunity for them to compete for prize money, but also to showcase their strength and agility, and to show off their farm!
My Cody Nite Takeaways
The crowd really got into each event. They cheered as each competitor got on the field, and they sounded sad each time an individual fouled and disqualified themselves from the event. I have to admit, I got into the emotional side of things as well, since I wanted to see these hard-working cowboys and cowgirls do well! The announcers egged us on, urging us to cheer at appropriate times, and filling the slow times with bad jokes.
Watching the Cody Nite Rodeo, or any rodeo, is an outstanding display of skill and athleticism that is unique to this sport! What a fantastic way to spend a summer evening when passing through Wyoming, or if you’re spending some time at nearby Yellowstone.
Written by: Brooke Yool
Brooke is a Seattle-based college instructor and auto repair shop owner. She is obsessed with any opportunity to interact with locals while traveling, since that’s where the magic happens. Her journeys often take her to Eastern Europe or the Middle East.