Saturday, July 31, 2010

Let's Go Rodeo

One thing I like to do every year is to be sure to hit the rodeo at the Sonoma County Fair in the summertime.  Summer = Rodeo and has for many, many years.  My daughters and I used to hit almost every local rodeo in the area, sometimes with a posse of gay cowboys (a long story, and one of the best bunch of guys to hang out with. Ever.) or with my girlfriends.  There was the year that I worked security at the Russian River Rodeo - what a fun time that was.  Little did I know then, but one of my closest friends ever was working the same rodeo (before we met), though she was in the chutes with the stock, twistin' tails.  I lost touch with the Posse and many of my rodeo girlfriends moved away, so I drifted into our rodeo days being more limited.  We really make an effort to see it at the fair every summer, though, and I think we've only missed it once in the last 15 years.

This summer, money is tight.  I knew that we would make it to the fair, but didn't know about being able to hit the grandstand to watch the action in the dirt.  The law firm I work for has a tradition that we look forward to every year - they give each of us employees a ticket to the fair and an afternoon off work to enjoy it.  What a treat!  Becca's price of admission is low, so I knew that we would make it to at least wander around, see the sights, eat some junk food, and have a good time.

We listen to Froggy 92.9 country radio every morning, and Becca has become a real wiz at winning things.  She entered a drawing contest and won me a brand new refrigerator for Mother's Day.  Woo-hoo!  The same day we won the fridge, she won tickets to the races, too, but I had to have her decline them when I found out, 'cause there's a 30 day waiting period between winning prizes.  We've been trying to win tickets to see Miranda Lambert, who's playing at the fair on Monday, but haven't been successful.  Then the other night, because I'm a registered listener with the station, I received an e-mail telling me that if I reply with my phone number, I had a chance of winning tix to see Miranda, the Zac Brown Band, or rodeo.  You can bet I replied right away!!

The following day (Thursday), I was checking in with my co-worker, KP, when my cell phone went off.  I glanced at the number and muttered, "I don't know you," and declined the call.  As soon as I hit the button, I thought, "Oh, no!!"  I explained to KP that I had entered the contest and was suddenly afraid that that might have been the call telling me I won!  Shortly thereafter I checked voice mail, and sure enough - it was Dano telling me that I had won rodeo tickets!!  Yee Haw!  I was so thankful that I could call back, but it had to be quick, or he was going to go down his list.  I was able to reach him and make arrangements to pick up the tickets, which I did same day, on my lunch hour.  Two tickets to the rodeo, plus fair admission.  We were set.

Friday was killer at work.  Tons of work to push out before I could leave, and I didn't get out as early as planned.  Still, I was on the road, picked up Becca, and made it to the fairgrounds well before I would have normally gotten off of work.  The first thing, of course, is to get something to eat.  I'd forgotten breakfast until we were at the end of the driveway (about a mile from the house) and had skipped lunch.  Famished!  We went to Ibleto's stand, where we always get a plate of pasta with garlic bread to split, and sat down to have some food.  Then, it was off to the carny.  Becca's favorite part of the fair is rides.   There was a great deal going where for $20 you could get a wristband for unlimited rides.  Given that tickets are $1 each and the good rides are 5-6 tickets each, this was a considerable savings for a Ride Maniac.  I had told Bex before we went to the fair that I wouldn't be paying for rides.  Our budget for food and entertainment inside the fair was a strict $20 (I am amazed, but we stuck to it!).  She brought some of her allowance she's been saving for a game system, and purchased her own wristband.  We proceeded around the carnival, laughing and running from ride to ride.

I watched from the sidelines, taking pictures, people watching, smiling and waving at her while she had fun whizzing through the air.  There were a couple of rides at the fair with signs indicating that they had previously been located at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.  We enjoyed listening to the stream of MJ's music throughout the carny.  Whatever struggles he had in his personal life, he was a musical genius, and his music always makes me happy (much more so than Lady Gag-Gag, which was playing at one of the rides).

We went all the way around the carnival area, and Becca got on every ride she wanted to.  The lines were amazingly short, there was rarely much of a wait, if any.  Once we'd made the rounds, we headed over to get a funnel cake to share and big cup of lemonade.  We unfortunately got the food and drink before remembering that we couldn't go into the Hall of Flowers with them, so we missed that this year.  We walked through the Sustainable Sonoma area, looking at solar panels, rainwater collection info, and windmills.  Of course, there was a Zap car there, and this small solar powered vehicle that I'd never seen before.  Way cool.

The funnel cake was too hard to manage while walking, so we sat and listened to some music and people-watched for a bit while we finished it, then headed off to see the critters.  We both enjoyed seeing piglets, a couple of Nubian goat kids, and Border Collie puppies (I want one!), in addition to the draft horses, cows and other farm animals.  We also got to see a chick starting to break through its egg, on its way out into the world for the first time. 

We were coming up on time for the rodeo to start, so we headed back to allow Becca to go on rides a couple more times, then headed to the arena.  Our seats were really good, but man it was getting COLD!  We have had an unusually mild summer, and it is crazy how it feels like Fall at the end of July.  We sat in the grandstands for a while, and then decided there was no way we were going to make it through the rodeo without getting jackets and blankets from the car.  I hated missing the opening of the show, but we started walking out quickly to make it back as soon as we could.  On our way out of the grandstands, someone called out to me, and I was happy to see my old neighbor, Lisa C., who's the daughter of my previous landlord.  She'd lived next door to my place on the ranch for a long time, and I really like and miss the family.  Last time we were at the rodeo she was barrel racing, but I guess not this year.

We hustled hard to get to the car and back to the arena, bundled up and ready now.  Luckily, we hadn't missed too much, and we enjoyed the rest of the show.  It was nice to see the higher caliber contestants this year.  It had not been as good of a show the last time we came, because the economy was hitting people so hard that very few of the good cowboys were able to travel to as many rodeos.  Regardless of the lame joke made by the MC about the failure of the stimulus package, it was evident that things are better than they were a couple years ago.  We're not back on our feet yet, but we're starting to get up and find our way - though I have a feeling we'll need to be finding a new way.  Lacking this year was the big intermission show I'm used to, but the goat show with the rodeo clown was entertaining. 

After some really good bull riding, we headed out with the crowd as it spilled back into the fair.  We had our own critters at home waiting for us to tuck them in for the night, so we resisted the urge to hang out at the fair and let Becca ride the rides a little more.  I did say it was okay for her to go down the slide again on our way out.  When we got home, Salsa and her kids were hollering at us, but they're always the ones to greet us when we are coming home, or even just when we go outside.  After we tucked in the last goat, Becca and I did our "high five" routine at the barn door, and then she gave me a big hug and I hugged her back.  She said, "I love your hugs.  They are the best."  Aaaawwwww...  With the ups and downs we go through as she moves into her teenage years, these moments of reconnection and shared happy moments are priceless.  What a great day.

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