More than 500 cowboys and cowgirls have thundered into town for a little roping, riding and wrestling at the annual rodeo at WestWorld of Scottsdale. The 53rd annual Parada del Sol Rodeo comes just days after the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show at WestWorld. But while the horse show was about composure and costumes, the rodeo is about buckin’ broncos and broken bones.
Just ask Jake Barnes.
The Scottsdale resident, 46, will be competing in the rodeo with a cast on his hand. He lost a large part of his right thumb in a roping accident in December, received a skin graft and was back in the arena a month later.
The seven-time world champion team roper competes in 60 rodeos a year, and said he won’t let a little thing like a torn-off thumb get him down.
“It’s just part of the sport,” he said. “You have to compete through your injuries.”
Barnes exemplifies the grit and determination that all cowboys have, said event spokeswoman Ellen Bilbrey.
“They’re tough,” she said. “They don’t have trainers to massage them and put them in the spa.”
The rodeo will feature several standard events, including bronc riding, team roping, tie down, barrel racing and bull riding.
Each competitor pays $170. The winners go home with boots full of cash.
“It’s basically gambling with skill,” said Scott McCulloch, 24, of Galt, Calif. McCulloch will compete in tie down, also known as calf roping.
The key, he said, is to make as few mistakes as possible. The fate of each cowboy can change in a split second.
“It’s all about speed and consistency,” McCulloch said.
Between events, it’s up to announcers and rodeo clowns to keep the crowd’s attention.
“My job is to make sure that rodeo fans today, in the year that we live, realize what a big part rodeo played in this country’s history and heritage,” said announcer Wayne Brooks.
“A lot of folks don’t understand that side of it. Rodeo was a major player in the settling of the West.”
Brooks will be assisted by the rodeo clowns, who provide some comic relief in the arena.
Whether it’s stand-up, skits or slapstick, the clowns’ comedy has to be quick and it has to be funny.
“If we get a lot of people laughing, it’s a good time,” said Jeff Garner, 33, who turns into “Slim” when he puts on the clown makeup.
This weekend, fans can see Slim driving a “cowboy Cadillac,” walking through the crowd and performing magic tricks.
“I’m a rodeo clown,” he said. “It’s like a paid vacation. And it sure beats gutting chickens.”
The weekend’s events include food, music and carnival rides.
There will be a dance Friday night at the Whiskey River Saloon in Phoenix, and another on Saturday night at Handlebar J in Scottsdale.
Parada boss David Carlton said he can’t wait to see the stands full of fans.
“There’s excitement in the air,” he said. “There’s music playing, the scoreboard is up . . . we’re ready to go out the gate here.”
Check it out
What: 53rd annual Parada del Sol Rodeo
When: Today’s and Saturday’s performances start at 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday’s performance starts at 2 p.m.
Where: WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road
Cost: $12 children 3 to 12, $14 general admission, $14 to $20 reserved seating.
Information: (480) 990-3179, Ext. 2, or www.paradadelsol.org