Road Trip 2017: Snake River Stampede

Walking into our hotel, our accents drew the attention of one of the receptionists. When queried as what brought a couple of Brits all the way to Nampa, our confident answer of ‘the rodeo’, was met with a puzzled, “why?”

The Snake River Stampede has a history spanning over 100 years. Held in Nampa, Idaho, the rodeo is one of the top professional events in the US; but to locals, it’s much less of a novelty. Unphased by the check-in questioning, we donned our gayest cowboy apparel, marched past the cynical receptionist and made our way to a pre-rodeo get together.

The day before the rodeo we attended a charity event held in the arena in aid of breast cancer. The Pink on the Dirt luncheon is a worthy, emotional and entertaining fund raiser and we were privileged to attend. Slightly unsettled by the receptionists’ negative view of all things rodeo, I left my hat in the truck and walked in sans-Stetson… As it turned out, I was the only chap in the building sporting a naked crown. What a rodeo faux pas! Bald head held high, I carried on regardless and I must have been doing something right as a couple of women acted like they knew me. We found our seats, collected our barbecue lunch (nom) and sat through an awkward, yet heart warming and ultimately fun stage show.

The rodeo itself was all the Americana you imagine a rodeo would be, and as sure as Miss Rodeo Idaho rode around the arena waving Old Glory atop a white stallion, it was a great spectacle that almost peaked too early.

There are two words that will live with us forever, Mutton Busting.

We arrived early so as not to miss this bizarrely hilarious event. Watching small children clinging to sheep-back for as long as possible, travelling as far down the arena as they dare proved to be a genuine highlight. Until this point, pig racing at a pumpkin patch had been the benchmark of weird, but the sight of under-10s eating dirt after being tossed from confused sheep, confirms I have a new favourite sport. The young rodeo clowns were the icing on this carnage-filled cake.

The sheep congregated at the end of the arena under the watchful eye of a sheep dog until ushered out, unharmed.

The rest of the rodeo was as you would expect. Steer roping, barrel racing and the bronco riding finale; all super impressive and all super focused on promoting animal welfare. As cruel as many of these sports may seem, you really felt the respect for the livestock these athletes and handlers had.

We can’t wait to go again!