There are some folks that dismiss rodeo with jokes about cowboy hats and belt buckles the size of dinner plates. They don’t get it.
Rodeo is a pastime that requires nothing less than full-blooded, spurs on, hell for leather passion. This is real (with the bruises and the broken bones to prove it). And it’s a fervour that tends to catch on, with whole families taking part weekend after weekend around the country towns of Queensland.
The O’Halloran family is usually amongst them and they’ll be at Bullzye in November.
The O’Hallorans -- Mum, Liz, Dad, Pat and daughters Lacey-Jae, aged 20 and Cassidy, aged 11 -- hail from Thangool, a town south of Biloela, where they grow lucerne, oats and hay on a 220-acre farm.
They breed horses too, and longhorn cattle – the type you see in cowboy movies and that help the O’Hallorans train their rodeo horses.
Pat also works in the Moura Mines as a machine operator for a few days most weeks while Liz holds the fort at home. Lacey-Jae is a full-time university student doing a dual accounting/bachelor of business degree while Casey heads off to school each day.
Through these busy weeks, the O’Halloran’s hang out for the weekends when they’ll pack up the gooseneck, a caravan-like truck with a place for horses down the back.
“Then we’ll head out,” says Liz. “We generally do one rodeo a weekend up here and it takes anywhere from three to six hours to get there.”
“Pat and I do team roping, Lacey caught calves at two rodeos, and Cassidy-Anne is building her speed up.”
“Both girls go into the Rodeo Queen competitions where you are an ambassador for the rodeo. To win that, you are judged on horsemanship, personality and how well you present yourself and your horse.
“At Blackwater Rodeo Lacey-Jay won Queen and Cassidy-Anne won Princess.”
To rodeo critics, Liz points out, “we have a lot of family time together.”
“The competition’s good, and we’ve made so many good friends within the rodeo circuit, they’re almost kind of like your family.
“At the end of the day we’re all mates and we’re always happy when everyone wins.”
Competing at Bullzye is an honour hard earned. Only the CRCA’s top 12 horsemen and women ride it out for the prestigious title of champion.
Whether you know rodeo or not, it’s an awesome showdown to witness. Top cowboys meet top bulls and it’s anyone’s guess who’ll come out best.
Event organiser Tina Dayes said it’s this element of a gamble that adds to the rodeo’s increasing appeal.
“You never know who’ll win – the best cowboy can’t predict what a bull can do and so might not always get the best of him,” says Tina.
“The underdog always has a chance and Australians like that.
“You just can’t rig a rodeo.”
Apart from the thrills of the bone-jerking competition, Bullzye includes displays of horsemanship (including an appearance by Frank Green, the man who trained the animals for the film, Australia) and a celebration concert featuring well-known country musicians.
It’s a package full of colour and raw energy that appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Supported by the Queensland Events Regional Development Program in 2009, Bullzye prides itself on offering true family entertainment in a world where opportunities for adults and kids to have fun together are increasingly rare.
Tina puts it best: “It’s good, clean fun,” she says.
And Rockhampton, known for its beef and bulls, is the natural setting for the event. When the rodeo rides in each year, it gives the town and its surrounding Capricorn region a chance to show off the attractions on offer year round.
This is a special part of Australia, where the tropical resorts of the Keppel Islands contrast with the golden west of bottle trees, outback farms and opportunities to fossick for sapphires, gold and ‘thunder eggs’. It is one of the best places in the country for a close up experience of our Aboriginal heritage – the Indigenous art at Carnarvon will take your breath away as quickly as the Gorge’s magnificent views. And fishing enthusiasts come to Capricorn for the famed Fitzroy River where big barramundi offer good tucker and fodder for great fireside tales.
The people in Capricorn are the type you hope to meet on holiday – friendly, full of character and quick to say ‘G’day’ and share a yarn. Many of them, no doubt, involve great times spent at the Bullzye Rodeo. Get along and find your own story this year.
The CRCA Bullzye Rodeo Spectacular benefits from Queensland Events Regional Development Program (QERDP) funding. For the full calendar of supported events visit www.queenslandevents.com.au.
For more information on the CRCA Bullzye Rodeo Spectacular, visit www.centralrodeo.com.au.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.