Annual Cyclone Stampede Rodeo set for this weekend

A bullfighter tries to distract the bull.

Elyse Ogbourne

The last student-run rodeo in the nation, the Cyclone Stampede Rodeo, is taking place this Friday and Saturday. This is the 56th annual Cyclone Stampede.

The rodeo will host over 250 athletes from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). Iowa State University’s rodeo club is part of the Great Plains Region of NIRA.

While lots of universities across the United States hold collegiate rodeos, members of the Cyclone Stampede Rodeo take pride not only in competing in the rodeo, but also in organizing, setting up, and tearing down the event.

“It’s something that we hang our hat on, something that the club is really proud of,” said Jackson Matthews, a junior at Iowa State, who will be working as a bullfighter during the rodeo. “Most other places will have the contractor put it on as his own rodeo, whereas this, we are paying the contractor to come. A lot more of it is in our hands.”

Bull riding is one of the nine events taking place at the Cyclone Stampede Rodeo this weekend. During this event, the riders are strapped onto the bull with the goal of holding on for eight seconds.

“A lot of people call it a dance,” said Will Halsted, one of the bull riders hoping to qualify for the championship round this weekend. “There is some technique to it and some form that you have to figure out before you get good at it.”

Qualification matches for bull riding will take place Friday and Saturday. The championship rounds will occur later in the day on Saturday.

There is an element of danger in bull riding. If the rider falls off of the bull, they are left inside the arena with a 1,500 to 2,000-pound raging animal. In order to protect the bull riders, several bullfighters are in the arena as well.

“I am protection for the bull riders, to assist them out of the arena safely,” said Darren DuBois, one of the bullfighters. “I make sure they don’t get in harm’s way, and put myself in harm’s way to protect them.”

Even though standing up against a 2,000-pound bull is daunting, it doesn’t discourage the bullfighters from protecting the riders.

“Rodeo is an addictive sport,” said Luke Moore, one of the bullfighters for the event, who has been a professional bullfighter for 10 years. “Once you are involved with it, you stay with it for the rest of your life.”

Although protecting the bull riders from the bulls is a highlight of the event for all the bullfighters, they all mentioned that their favorite part of the rodeo is the atmosphere and the camaraderie between everyone involved.

“Cowboy to cowboy, cowboy to cowgirl, even opposing teams,” DuBois said. “We’re all friends. We’re one big family. The connection is larger than any other sport I have been a part of.”

The Cyclone Stampede Rodeo will take place in the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center in Ames. Performances will be at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, as well as at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available for purchase at the door.