Saturday, May 25, 2013

East Coast Cowboys: Authentic Americana at the Cowtown Rodeo, NJ

I'm always looking for something authentically American.
It's not easy to find.  Through the proliferation of store chains and massive development, areas that used to have their own identity and landscape now resemble the same-old-same-old found everywhere else you go.  The area I grew up in, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, now looks like just a wide extension of Northeast Philadelphia for the most part.  We just call them "townhouses" instead of "rowhomes."
Maybe it's progress when another Walmart goes up.  I'm not sure.
All I know is that the cornfields I grew up slogging through are gone now and the fruit stands that used to sell locally grown produce along the road went with them.  But hey, there's another Home Depot being built in the area, so we must be doing something right.
I make it my business to get my kids outside and away from the iPads and PS3's and internet.  We shoot bottles with bb-guns and go looking for frogs in the creek near the house.  It's not perfect but hell, it's something.  Christ, if you paved over the front yard I'd probably have them out looking for a mud puddle just   so we could splash around in it and hope some wild life jumps out.
Much to my elation, I happened to hear a commercial for Cowtown Cowboy Outfitters in Pinesgrove, NJ, just an hour outside of Philadelphia.  I had no idea there was a western wear store so nearby, and I immediately began investigating.  What I found out next blew my mind.  They're not only a store.  They're a rodeo.
A real rodeo.  I mean, a for real, functional, actual rodeo, right in New Jersey.  In fact, it is the oldest weekly rodeo in the United States and the day we picked to go (today) was their first rodeo of the season.
Let me tell you partner.  I might be a Yankee but I grew up with chicken coops and corn fields and hand-built red barns and farmers and when I see a bunch of men, women and children walking around in cowboy boots and hats...I feel at ease.  And I don't mean the fancy ones people just put on to go line-dancing.
I mean the dirty, worn out boots covered in mud.  I mean the hats worn for function over fashion.
The Cowtown Rodeo has seven professional events every Saturday, including: Bull Riding, Bareback Bronc Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Steer Wrestling, Girls Barrel Racing, Team Roping, and Tie Down Roping.
Let me tell you something, you don't have an appreciation for what these poor bastards go through trying to hold on to a bucking bronco until one crashes into the chain link fence right in front of you. When it's got the guy ten feet in the air and his head is about to smash the iron bar stretched across that fence, and he's jerking back and forth and holding on for dear life.
It was fifteen bucks for an adult and ten per kid to get in.  Parking was free, and the stadium was full on a cold May night without being cramped or uncomfortable.  You can bring your own cooler (to a certain size) and if we'd been smart enough to come hungry, there's food on site.
Pack up your family, throw them in the car and tell them you're going for a ride.  Don't tell them where.  If you have to lie, say it's to Chuck E. Cheese or the Mall or Cold Stone Creamery or whatever damned franchise fabricated monstrosity you have to in order to fool them into accompanying you on a journey to something you haven't seen before.
A one of a kind.
Something authentic, and no doubt, something you really need.
Cowtown Rodeo Homepage

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