Rodeo! Hawaiian Style
a surprise to many visitors that there are Hawaiian cowboys and cowgirls,
and even horses and cattle, much less real live rodeo in Hawaii.
200 years ago English ship captains George Vancouver and Richard Cleveland
brought the first cattle and horses to Hawaii. This was the origin of the
Hawaiian Cowboy – now called Paniolo.
before there were ranches in the continental United States, Hawaii’s
Paniolo were becoming experts at wrangling and roping cattle from
horseback. Cattle ranches were soon established throughout Hawaii even
before they sprawled across the continental United States.
special occasions cowboys and their families would gather to compete in
friendly contests of ranching skills – bronco (wild horse) riding and
cattle roping. The first recorded organized rodeo was part of a 4th of
July celebration in Prescott, Arizona in 1864. Since then, rodeo has been
one of America’s most time honored 4th of July traditions.
word “rodeo” was originally a Spanish word referring to the corral
where the wild horses were kept.
rodeo is especially unique as the excitement and action of the sport is
combined with island traditions and a proud history. Island ranchers and
their families hone their skills year-round in anticipation of the rodeos
that take place throughout the state. Most of Hawaii’s rodeos take place
in the summer months when the weather is dry and the days are long. The
biggest rodeo day in Hawaii is the 4th of July holiday, as in the rest of
the state of Hawaii, Independence Day means BIG RODEO as cattle and horse
folk gather at rodeos big and small to perpetuate “America’s sport”.
The Big Island’s Parker Ranch Rodeo and Maui’s Makawao Rodeo have been
annual celebrations for nearly fifty years.
on Oahu, a dedicated crew of cowboys and cowgirls are in the process of
building a world-class event known as the 4th
of July All Star Rodeo, which is held at the New Town and Country
Stables in Waimanalo – Hawaii’s premier rodeo grounds. These grounds
feature the state’s best string of
bucking bulls and livestock. Not only do they hold wild animals,
but sometimes they hold an even wilder crowd.
July 4, 2002 an overflow rodeo crowd packed the 4,500-seat New Town and
Country Stables. It was the largest rodeo crowd at a single performance in
Hawaii since eight-time world champion bull rider Donnie Gay rode the
great bull “Rocky” back in 1987. Spectators at the rodeo ran the
gamut, from local ranchers and residents, to military personnel and a
large tourist contingency from around the world. And all were here for one
reason – to witness the spectacle of Hawaiian rodeo.
crowd was treated to a first class show. It began with a heart-tugging
grand entry followed by a five-at-once wild cow ride. Then the crowd
watched bareback bronco riding, keiki barrel racing, adult barrel racing,
and match barrel racing – an elimination event that matches two-barrel
racers at a time. Then came the wahine steer undecorating, an event in
which women riders took taped ribbons off of running steers from the back
of their galloping horses, yet another use for duct tape!
two-man team roping was followed by the double mugging event in which a
rider on horseback lassoed a large steer, and then tries to wrestle it
down with the help of his partner already on the ground. Pandemonium broke
loose as the cowboys were often the ones left in the dirt.
rodeo events were called by announcer Cory Gibson, son of stable owners
Bud and Katy Gibson. Cory’s longtime knowledge of Hawaiian rodeo and his
personal relationships with the athletes and the animals make him well
suited for his difficult job. Country radio personality Charlie Garrett
teamed up with Cory to make sure that the rodeo fans knew what was
happening, that the sponsors were well recognized, and that everyone was
action was sometimes interspersed with clown acts, a clown dress-up dance
contest where contestants dressed as rodeo clowns danced for the crowd to
the tune of “Cotton Eye Joe”. And of course, the ever popular stick
pony race in which a stampede of young cowboys and cowgirls wielding
decorated stick ponies compete in a wild race for the grand prize which
came the main event.
many of you came to see the bull riding?” hollered announcer Cory
Gibson. The crowd was deafening as the gates cracked open and unleashed
the beasts that make the Waimanalo Rodeo famous. Within seconds, dust,
hoofs and cowboy hats flew in every direction.
with names like “Air Wolfe”, “Predator”,
“Freight Train”, “Battle Zone” and the legendary bull
“Rocky” have all bucked here, and so have some of the best bull riders
in the world, including Lane Frost, Ty Murray and Tuff Heideman.
the dust settled on this day, the bulls of the Rocker “G” Live Stock
Company were undefeated. They had bucked off Hawaii’s best bull riders,
but there was one last chance for cowboy redemption – Cowboy Hula Bull.
the cowboys slowly entered the arena, the bull fighters cheerfully fitted
them with protective vests, hula skirts and plastic flower leis. Rubber
hoops were placed on the ground and each cowboy stood inside the hoop.
“The last one still in your hoop wins!” sounded the announcer. And
with that, the bull fighters gave the cowboys one last aloha hug and the
gate burst open and out came “Smokum”, a fierce, large humped, rippling
muscled, brahma bull into the ring.
crowd went insane as Smokum selected and attacked his victims one at a
time. Some cowboys ran out of the arena, some of them flew out. In the
end, one man was left with all his body parts, a few hundred dollars and a
great story to tell his future grandkids.
contests you may want to enter while at the 4th of July Rodeo are the
Country Dance Contest, the second annual Mountain Oyster Cook Off, and the
Cowboy Hula Bull.
can bring a stick pony (or even get one at the rodeo) and enter the stick
pony races. They can also dress up like a rodeo clown and enter the clown
of the rising stars to watch for this year are eleven-year-old Shelby Rita
from the north shore. Champion of last year’s keiki barrel races, Shelby
will be competing in the keiki and adult barrel events. Shelby’s picture
is featured on the cover of this newspaper as well as all over this
year’s Rodeo Poster and t-shirts. Handsome Jason Lau, 20 years old, is
an all-around cowboy from Waimanalo who’ll be entered in several events
including bronc and bullriding. Jason is also a polo player and farrier.
there’s Chris Dudley, a freelance writer, who rode his first bull as
part of an award-winning story he wrote for a local newspaper. Chris is a
farrier and musician on the brink of stardom. Chris will debut as the
clown ‘Jed Jed’. Look for the bright orange shirt – the bulls
to the overwhelming crowd at last year’s show, this year’s rodeo will
be held on two days starting on July 4th with the finals on July 5th.
Gates open at 1 p.m. and the rodeo starts at 3 p.m. on both days. There
will be plenty for fans to enjoy before, during and after the rodeo such
as pony rides, great food, games, soft drinks and beer. Shoppers will have
a great opportunity to scoop a vast selection of western hats and gifts
– especially the coveted 4th of July Rodeo Collector’s shirts and the
newly released 2004 Hawaiian Rodeo Calendar.
year’s rodeo is a benefit for therapeutic horsemanship of Hawaii, Hawaii
High School Rodeo Association and Naturally Hawaiian’s Art Center in
Waimanalo. This year McKenna Motors and The Shack Restaurants will be the
title sponsors of the 4th of July All Star
Rodeo. For information on tickets, entries and sponsorship call
259-5354 or visit www.naturallyhawaiian.com.