Last year, I had just started at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau when my boss, Veronica, asked for my assistance with a big project.
“I need you to help me with coverage of the North Texas Fair & Rodeo,” she said with trepidation.
Veronica was sure that I was going to run away screaming. Little did she know that this was exactly my wheelhouse.
I come from a small town in Kansas where the entire town shuts down for our little county fair, the first week in August. Parades, livestock shows, rodeos, demolition derbies, carnival rides and funnel cakes were excitedly devoured by this seven-year 4-H veteran and her family.
I’ve done county fairs. I’ve had exhibits at the State Fair of Kansas. But the nine days at the 2015 North Texas Fair & Rodeo were something else entirely.
First of all, if you’re a fan of rodeo, you have something to look forward to all nine nights of the fair, which is just mind-blowing. After the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys of America, these are the pro cowboys that are vying for spots at the National Finals Rodeo, which happens every December in Las Vegas.) events the first three nights, there’s the Invitational Ranch Rodeo. Ever wonder what the day-to-day life for a Texas rancher is like? Check out the ranch rodeo, where teams of ranchers compete in such events as branding, doctoring and livestock sorting.
If you’re excited to see the future rodeo stars, there’s two nights of the 21 and Under Rodeo, which have more events for the cowgirls out there. In addition to barrel racing, which is a staple of rodeo, there’s also breakaway roping and goat tying for the ladies.
But most will show out for the final three nights, which is solely dedicated to bull riding. The Bull Blowout showcases nothing but those cowboys who are out there to ride 2,000 pounds of bovine muscle. Not only is it a showcase for bull riders, but for the brave guys on the ground who go out to keep the riders safe. The Cowboy Protection Match is a great asset to these events, as they award scores to the pairs of bullfighters on how to best distract a bull and keep the cowboys safe.
If you’re a lover of Texas country music, you will not want to miss the fair. Every night features at least two acts that are staples of the Texas country scene, and even some that are internationally recognized. Fans of the fair will recognize frequent acts, such as the Josh Abbott Band, the Randy Rogers Band, Zane Williams and Brian “Beerman” Houser. The headliner on the first Saturday night of the fair is Steve Wariner, who, in addition to being a country artist with 10 #1 hits on the Billboard Country charts, has written hits for Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Bryan White and Keith Urban.
The mentioned photo.
The headliner on the second Saturday night should be recognizable to almost anyone who knows southern country. The Charlie Daniels Band brings their act back to north Texas after a sell-out crowd at last year’s fair. Like this year, the 2015 fair ended with Charlie Daniels on the Budweiser stage. I texted my mom a photo of me with a vibrant smile on my face as I watched one of the legends of country do his thing. My mom’s response: “Looks like your job is just awful.” (Mom, your jealousy is showing.)
Veronica, so sure that nine straight days of the fair would drive me away faster than Charlie Daniels can fiddle, fretted that the frantic pace during the fair would cause me to quit. Instead, it cemented my love of my job and of Denton all that much more. In that nine days, we bonded over rodeo and country music and apple pie funnel cake (I’m comin’ for you, Mrs. Lively’s, as soon as the fair opens.) and any personal fears that I might not be able to hang with my job evaporated.
Not many fairs can boast everything that the North Texas Fair & Rodeo boasts, especially for the price. For just $20, you get 3 concerts (at 6 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.), a rodeo (at 7:30 p.m.), fun sideshows, plenty for the kiddos to check out and shopping. For just a little bit more, sample the fair foods, many from local vendors, which have made the county fair such a memorable experience for people young and old.
I have been looking forward to dusting off my boots, donning my straw hat and getting back out to my roots. Will we see you out there?