What is it about the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo that keeps visitors coming back for more?
It’s the many characters, faces and personalities that come together each year to create the thrills, the excitement, the raw power and courage that is rodeo.
They’re feared, though not loathed, loved but given due respect. They are the best in the business and treated like royalty.
Yet they’re right at home in the bull dust – though any chance at greener pastures is relished. They are the legendary stock – the stars of the Isa Rodeo spectacle.
Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo traditionally attracts the very best stock in Australia. Names like Chainsaw and Blondie are synonymous with the heart-stopping arena action.
From throughout the country, with some as far away as Benalla Victoria, stock contractors bring their prized rodeo animals – including bucking stock of the year as well as many runners-up and past bucking honourees.
Eight seconds – that’s all it takes. That’s all that stands between a cowboy and certain glory. The Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo has built a reputation as the place to be if you’re a rider worth your salt.
Men like Bonny Young, Jim McGuire and Garry McPhee, who competed in all events and won Australian titles in most of them over a long period of time, have carved their names into the history of rodeo.
In their day, these were household names. Like Chainsaw and Blondie, they were revered and respected well beyond rodeo circles.
Then you’ve got the likes of Jim Dix, Darryl Kong, Dave Appleton and Troy Dunn – not to mention Shane Kenny (25 Australian titles) and Scott Fraser (who won pro tour titles in all three rough stock events and the all-round championship) who were the first to a make significant mark on the world stage.
These men paved the way for so many to follow. Many a career has been made at the Isa Rodeo. The competition is tough, the atmosphere second to none.
The Pick-Up Man
You probably wouldn’t want to get in the middle of a contest of man versus beast, but that’s exactly what a pick up man does.
The pick up man plays a similar role in the bareback and saddle bronc ride to the protection clown in the bull ride.
Their job is to safely take the rider from the bucking horse after a qualified ride. They must also release the flank strap from the bucking horse and lead him from the arena to the unsaddling chutes.
A good pickup man must ride a well-trained horse and be accustomed to moving in on a bucking horse and having a rider jump from the bucking horse to the pickup man’s horse.
There are hairy moments – as you’d expect – but this is a man that many a cowboy count on.
The Rodeo Clown
There are not too many people who could say they’ve sat crammed into a wooden barrel rolling around an arena with a massive bull bearing down on them. Not too many people would want to.
But for a rodeo clown, that’s all in a day’s work. The rodeo clown will keep the crowd entertained at this year’s Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo.
Now, before you go thinking this career choice is just one big joke, think again. The rodeo clown has one of the most dangerous and important jobs on the rodeo circuit. What they do can save lives – yet it all looks like just a bit of a lark, part of the show.
They must make people laugh, provide that comic relief between events and work with announcers to create atmosphere and get the crowd excited. They also have a more important role. If a bull is bearing down on a fallen rider, the clown does what he can to help the bullfighters get the bull away from the rider and out of the arena.
For the rodeo clown, working on the rodeo circuit means lots of travel and plenty of time away from home. You get to see the best rodeos in Australia, but Mount Isa still always comes up trumps.
The Bull Fighters
You’re scampering up an arena fence, your mouth is full of bull dust and there is a huge hunk of bullish beast hot on your heels. Not your idea of fun? Well, it is for a bull fighter charged with the massive responsibility to saves lives.
The role of the bull fighters, or protection clowns, is a vital one. Their job is to protect a fallen and take the attention of the bull after a qualified ride, allowing the rider to jump off and make a safe escape. The most dangerous job of the protection clown is to release a rider from a bucking bull when he gets his hand caught up in the bull rope.
Dedicated bull fighters will put their own life on the line to protect a bull rider which holds then in the highest regard among the competitors.
The Rodeo Announcers
Rodeo Announcers must have the gift of the gab. It is their job to create atmosphere, to get the crowd going and keep things exciting.
And they have to know their stuff too. For every rodeo, there hours of preparation – they must know the riders, where they’re from, what they’ve done and also know the stock inside out.
They have the best seat in the house at the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo. And they earn it, although they can be quick to judge the competitors – luckily, this is the job of the Rodeo Judge.
The judges are right on top of the action. If they are chute bossing, they need to be right there when the chutes open. And if they are judging timed events, they need to be out there on horseback with a keen eye.
A good judge knows every event and understands the calibre of the stock. They must know the good from the mediocre and they need to look for technique and control in the riders.
If there is one thing Mount Isa knows how to do well, it’s throw a ripper of a party. And with the best parties, comes the best entertainment.
For more than 50 years, the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo has been the centrepiece of the city’s entertainment calendar. As the event has evolved, it has attracted some of the biggest names in Australian entertainment – and this year will be no exception.
Just a cursory glance around the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo would yield you a million and one reasons as to why this is one of the best events of its kind in the country – perhaps even the world.
But it’s what goes on behind the scene that makes it truly incredible. Hundreds of volunteers lend their time and enthusiasm to this annual event and its beneficiaries are as diverse as they are far-reaching.
It takes a combined effort from between 200 and 250 volunteer personnel to make the rodeo event tick over smoothly. Their work is invaluable in the successful running of the week-long festival.