Major Bull

Don't get an American Brahma bull pissed off. Brahmas may have smaller horns than your average Latin bullring toro, but they're much bigger and definitely meaner. Unlike their counterparts they keep their eyes wide open when they charge, so it's rare that they miss their target. How do they get that nasty? "If you were in a rodeo circuit and you had cowboys trying to ride you all the time, you'd get mean too," says Andy Fischer, a polite, soft-spoken jeweler and president of the Homestead Rodeo Association.

Celebrating its 50th year, the association hosts the Homestead Championship Rodeo this weekend. The three-day extravaganza is the second and southernmost on a national circuit for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Members compete to gain points that will earn them a place in the finals (held at the end of the year in Las Vegas), and for silver belt buckles and cash prizes. Yes, some guys (and even some gals) actually make a living in the dusty ring.

Nearly 200 cowpokes and more than 150 animals will take part in a variety of events, including bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping, and girls' barrel racing. Sounds painful for the contestants, but especially for the livestock. Fischer, however, disputes the claim that animals are injured in the festivities: "We have a veterinarian on premises all during the rodeo. Anything gets tied up. Your dog gets tied up every once in a while. There's nothing hurting the animal. They're very well kept."

Ensuring the safety of the gawking public is another story. Of course the ubiquitous clown and his trusty assistant will be on hand to distract the cranky bulls from tearing into the competitors, but now and then the animals have been known to get a little too cozy with the audience. "Many years ago we had a couple of bulls get loose, but that was a long time ago," Fischer chuckles. "A lot of improvements have been made since then. We haven't had one get out in a long time, but there's always the chance!"

In addition to watching someone get gored by an angry, snarling beast, there are many reasons to spend a weekend at the rodeo. "A lot of people go to see if the cowboy gets hurt," Fischer acknowledges. "They love those bulls. Others go to watch the animals and see what they'll do. They like action, and there's always action at a rodeo." Yee haw, indeed!

-- Nina Korman

Homestead Championship Rodeo takes place Friday through Sunday, February 5 through 7, at the Doc Demilly Rodeo Arena, US 1 and SW 312th Street, Homestead. Performances begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday and 2:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. A parade takes place at 11:00 a.m. Saturday on Krome Avenue in downtown Homestead. Admission is $10 Friday and $12 Saturday and Sunday. Admission for kids is $5 Friday and $6 Saturday and Sunday. Call 305-247-3515.


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