On Thursday, I attended opening day of the 94th Annual Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo at Mosaic Arena in Arcadia, Florida, and if you haven’t been it’s an absolute must do for a wonderful experience!
I’d never photographed a rodeo but having attended this one in the past, I knew it would be a perfect place to try my hand at rodeo photos, and it was all that and more.
The Arcadia rodeo attracts exciting, top athletes from all over the United States to compete for purses and prizes in bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, and bull riding, to name a few. Points count toward the National Finals held in Las Vegas.
Being there was so much fun, and I highly recommend the Arcadia Rodeo!
This post by The Daily Artisan is the fifth in a series of “VISIT” places I go and photograph. The VISIT series’ earlier installments are provided at the bottom of this post, with links to the locations.
Coincidentally, the most recent VISIT post to my blog on The Daily Artisan was for the same town of Arcadia for antiques shopping in the historic downtown shops.
The (Volunteer) Heart of the Show – Hats Off to You!
Before I talk more about the rodeo sights and scenes, let me first congratulate the volunteer board of directors, the staff, and the other community volunteers who put on this hugely successful event each year. I’ve been involved in putting on enough events in my career to know the massive amount of work it takes to make something like the rodeo happen – and this popular tradition in Arcadia shines at the highest levels of planning, execution, and family fun.
This doesn’t happen by accident but rather from big-hearted folks who care deeply about keeping the Arcadia rodeo tradition alive and thriving, and it shows in every aspect of the experience. From the folks directing parking – to the vendors – to the volunteers everywhere you look to help with anything you might need – to the amazing show – you just feel at every point they truly are happy you’re there and want you to have fun!
This photograph was shot quickly (from behind a chain link fence), but it looked like a final run-through by the key organizers about an hour before the rodeo started on opening day!
Beautiful Mosaic Arena
I hadn’t attended the Arcadia rodeo in many years – not since it moved into the beautiful Mosaic Arena that was built within the past five years. The Arena is fully covered, and seats just over 7,800 people.
And, not surprising to everyone who knew and considered him a friend, Ben Hill Griffin III (Ben Hill Griffin, Inc.) played a significant role in making the Mosaic Arena a reality. I’m not sure if it’s always been there, or was recently added since Ben Hill passed away in 2020, but it was heartwarming to see that everyone who enters the rodeo does so walking under the metal arch of “Ben Hill Griffin Concourse.”
When I lived for many years in Punta Gorda, Florida, it was about a 30-minute drive to Arcadia. Now that I live further south, it’s just under an hour and a half to get there.
The people of Arcadia remind me a lot of the people of Punta Gorda – friendly, kind, and down to earth. You simply cannot visit Arcadia – rodeo or antiques district – without being made to feel genuinely welcome!
On to the Show!
And, now as they say – on to the show!
The gates opened at 11 a.m., and I was driving through them at 11:05 a.m. for the rodeo that started at 2 p.m. However, there was a lot planned to keep you entertained in the hours leading up to the rodeo kick-off, including a concourse full of food and other vendors, and a pre-show that started at 1 p.m. I also wanted to wander around to get the lay of the land, so to speak, for my photographs.
Unbelievable Seat for my Camera and Me
Last month when I posted about visiting Arcadia for the antiques district, I mentioned the annual rodeo and provided the March 10 – 13 dates for this year’s event. It got me thinking about how long it had been since I attended the rodeo, so just out of curiosity I went online to the rodeo’s website which included ticket sales.
Looking at the arena and ticket options, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a seat literally over the bucking chutes where the bulls and horses are prepped and released with their riders. It was on the first row from a bird’s eye perch, and I scooped it up immediately! And, what a vantage point it provided for photographs.
Here’s the arena diagram, and also where I indicated the location of my seat – I don’t know why it was available but I’m not asking questions, just grateful it was! My seat was marked as “Row 9, Seat 30” – which, as I said, had nobody in front of me – except for cowboys and bulls!
Photographs … and More Photographs
My camera just would not stop taking photographs the entire time I was there, so there are many pictures – way too many for this post. I’m going to post Part 2 on Saturday with more of my rodeo photographs.
And before we get into those, let me say I wish I knew everyone’s name so I could properly caption the photographs, but I don’t. The competitors were amazing and they deserve to have their names in lights, but I don’t know them.
If you see a photograph of yourself and want to shoot me a quick email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment on my Facebook or Instagram (@thedailyartisan) to let me know your name, I’ll be happy to update the photos with captions.
Behind the Scenes
One of the things I was most interested in seeing – and photographing – was the time before the riders on horses and bulls were released from the bucking chutes. My great seat provided the opportunity to watch the cowboys and other rodeo officials prepare the animals and themselves for the competitions, and it was fascinating to watch.
Because of this, I was able to get photographs of not just the competitive action out on the arena stage, but some profile-type pictures of the people. If I could have wished for one additional opportunity, it would have been to be at eye-level with the cowboys during their prep time, but I’m happy with what I was able to see and photograph from my seat.
Be sure to check out Saturday’s Part 2 installment of my rodeo photographs – including one of something very curious one of the bull riders did that I wish I knew more about and why … hmmm.
Maybe tomorrow someone who knows can let me know what it means.
Rodeo Photographs – Part 1
Without further ado, here are some of my photographs from yesterday. Be sure to check back on Saturday for more rodeo photographs!
These are some of the sights and scenes from when I arrived (remember I got there five minutes after the gates opened, so you won’t see the thousands of people who arrived before the start of the 2 p.m. rodeo show).
The concourse was lined with food and other vendors, including western boots. And be sure to check out the huge cauldron of grits being cooked for this vendor’s shrimp and grits offering! I also liked photographing inside the arena (and the bucking chutes) before the people and cows and horses all arrived.
The pre-show Quadrille started at 1 p.m. and featured eight pairs of two riders on horses doing incredible choreographed patterns and formations. It reminded me of synchronized swimming – just with horses and not in a swimming pool! Unfortunately, one participant was thrown from her horse, and the arena went quiet with worry – but fortunately she was able to walk out with assistance.
Her paired partner did a great job of quickly managing that horse as well as her own in what had to be a scary time. Best thoughts go out to them!
The rodeo announcer did a remarkable job, and his words about American family, traditions, and patriotism were inspiring to all. If there was a dry eye in the house with his words as our American flag was brought to the center of the arena, it surely wasn’t found in the section where I was seated.
During the day, I met so many nice people – including rodeo honorary director Mike Mulvaney who was kind enough to show me where the various events would take place – making my photography much easier. And, this great couple was seated near me – as I said, some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet! Also, the rodeo clown/entertainer/barrel man kept the crowd laughing and the show going!
The cowboys riding the large and crazy (!) horses and bulls were amazing, and for many people, this is the highlight of the rodeo!
As mentioned earlier, my vantage point let me photograph some of them as they prepared to do what most of us would be terrified of doing – climbing on these massive creatures for the (dangerous) ride of a lifetime!
From my seat, I could see and photograph some of them better than others – and one of my favorites is the cowboy wearing the purple shirt (and number 20 on his back), and who’s featured above in the first photo of this blog post. It was interesting watching him (and the others) prepare for the wild ride, and here are some photos of him doing just that – and also pictures of his time in the arena spotlight.
More Action on Center Stage
Here are photographs of some more exciting action by cowgirls and cowboys on the rodeo stage – and that crazy clown!
Keeping It Orderly!
These rodeo officials are like the city council or local police – keeping things in order!
Another Wild Ride!
It’s a good thing there are photos because it’s hard to put into words just how huge these animals are – and how amazing are the riders! This cowboy isn’t the only one I saw during the day who lost a boot (or two)!
Bulls can Make You Float on Air!
When I say I had a great seat, here’s what I’m talking about – this rather large creature came barreling through just under my feet! Kudos to the gate minder who seems to be floating on air in this photograph – just glad he was there!
And be sure to notice our friendly clown about as far down into that yellow barrel as possible – and I don’t blame him!
Come Back Tomorrow for More Photos (Part 2)!
Be sure to stop back at The Daily Artisan on Saturday to see additional rodeo photographs, including more wild bucking segments, and a set of my personal favorites of a competitor in the steer wrestling competition – wow!
I’ll leave you with a teaser photograph for tomorrow – I was thrilled when this picture came out of the camera in this way, unplanned. The sharpness of the horse’s head and the cowboy’s right boot contrast nicely with the unbelievable speed and motion going on with the rest of the horse (and the rest of the cowboy)!
For more information on the Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo, check out the website at https://www.arcadiarodeo.com.
And check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my rodeo photographs – on my website at www.thedailyartisan.com or @thedailyartisan on my Facebook and Instagram pages.
Visit the Arcadia Rodeo – you’ll greatly enjoy it!
VISIT is a series of blog posts about visited and photographed locations in Southwest Florida and beyond by The Daily Artisan. The posts can be viewed on my website at:
- Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens (Punta Gorda, Florida): VISIT: Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens
- The Wonder Gardens (Bonita Springs, Florida): VISIT: The Wonder Gardens
- Coconut Point (Estero, Florida): VISIT: Coconut Point Open-Air Mall
- Arcadia Antique Shops in Historic District: VISIT: The Town of Arcadia for Antiques, Produce, and Meats