Kara Nesvig: So, Marcus, we went to the World's Toughest Rodeo at the Xcel Center on Saturday night. What did you wear? I think we better address our ensembles straight off the bat; inquiring minds want to know.
Marcus Michalik: I tried to get into as a much of a character from Country Strong as I possibly could, so I put on my best three colors of denim and accented it with a little blue bandana. I think the people would much rather know what you wore, however.
KN: Good work - we know that NOBODY wears matching denim anymore! (Although I think we saw some Texas Tuxedos on Saturday.) I wore skinny black jeans, a men's plaid shirt and my grandma's cowboy boots. I'm pretty sure our crew (the two of us and my baby brother, who wore ostrich cowboy boots) was the best dressed. We had to stop counting the bedazzled jeans and chunky highlights. I even saw three or four Kate Gosselin haircuts. I mean, this is the Twin Cities. Nobody here is really "country" unless they're from Albertville. Now, you've never been to a rodeo before, right? What did you expect? Did you get any ideas from listening to "Rodeo" by Garth Brooks with my brother and me five times in a row?
MM: I've already learned a lot from Garth Brooks in my lifetime. What I expected was pretty much exactly what we ended up seeing, I'd say. Although I was surprised that it's apparently bad form to clap when someone gets thrown off a horse, though. I thought it was supposed to be like a NASCAR race.
KN: I grew up on a farm (not an animal farm!) and a thing people don't know about me is that I really like the smell of livestock—luckily we got to sit right behind them! Anyway, I've been to the rodeo before but it was definitely not as big-time as this one; World's Toughest Rodeo is like a KISS show with cowboys. There were pyrotechnics!
MM: The pyrotechnics were the obvious highlight. As much as I like waving at horses from the stands (which I really do), this city boy needs something a bit flashier than that to keep him entertained for a few hours. Before we get to the actual rodeo stuff, we should probably mention that girl who did stunts on her horses. She actually had us gasping a few times, if I recall.
KN: At one point, she was barefoot standing on TWO horses bareback (that means no saddle) and straddling FIRE. The amount of trust between human and horse for a stunt like that is unimaginable for me. Oh, and the horses had glitter on their hindquarters. I think the stunt riders turned everyone on.
MM: Glitter and horses is always a winning combination. War Horse could have really used some.
KN: After the prayer and flag salute hooey, the World's Toughest Rodeo commenced. We got to watch a bunch of tough cowboys with names like Jeep Steinbrook, Wade Sundell and Bee Jay Scott duke it out with wild horses and bucking bulls. The riders were from all over the nation - Pennsylvania to Woodbury! And they had been thrown, stomped on and beat up the night prior! I don't know how they do it.
MM: You're right! This wasn't even the first night they had done this in St. Paul. I'd seen rodeos on cable before so I knew those eight seconds on a bull weren't exactly a full-body massage, but I was shocked at how physically demanding it looked to be on top of one of those things. I was worried about neck injuries all night long.
KN: A few of the bullriders wore hockey-style masks, which doesn't look very badass. But after seeing Keegan Kite cling to his horse, get dragged and then get run over by another horse, I kind of understand. (Addendum: Aforementioned cowboy got up and simply walked away.) Everyone was on the edge of their seat. Rodeos are an emotional rollercoaster! We didn't understand how the scoring worked, but I believe it runs on a 100-point scale.
MM: I basically had the whole process mixed up. I thought the riders that held on erratically and managed to stay on were the most impressive, but I guess it's rightfully the ones with the skills to avoid that type of situation that should be the most rewarded. We should take a crash course in rodeo Wikipedia before our next visit. It seemed funny to me that there was almost no fanfare when they determined who the winners were. These men are too stoic to even celebrate.
KN: I was disappointed they didn't play any country music! Granted there was a Justin Moore concert post-rodeo which we missed out on, but still—the cowboys were riding to Tone Loc. That's not right.
MM: We even heard M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" at one point. That seemed particularly out of place. What if the fake gunshots had scared our horse friends?
KN: I know the horses were your favorite part, but my favorite part was the cowboy butts. Wranglers (also a sponsor of the rodeo) just do something to a male backside that no other jean can do. There are bumper stickers that say "Cowboy Butts Drive Me Nuts" for a reason. I also liked the children riding the sheep full bore, though I only caught a minute of that.
MM: They were pretty hilarious. Most just kind of toppled over like Weebles, but it was nice to see the girls get in on the action with that one. My four-year-old brother saw a YouTube video of some kids doing it and now he wants to try it. I could be a proud Rodeo Brother! This could be my life! What a dream.
KN: I think people tend to write the rodeo off as "hickish," but we did get to see firsthand all the training and skill it requires. These guys work for years to become champions and if I've learned anything from Garth Brooks, it's that the lure of the saddle is a siren call no man can resist.
MM: I mean, I can, but that's only because I know I'd be paralyzed the second the gates opened. You thought you could last three seconds, but I'm much less optimistic. I definitely walked away from Saturday night with a much larger appreciation of the sport. I'm also glad that I can still walk without the aid of a steel pin in my hip. That said, next time we go, we're going to find you a man. I hope his name is something like Cody. And he'll drive a pick-up, of course. What should his belt buckle say?
KN: Well, it's gotta say something like "CHAMP," since I won't settle for less than a winner. I heard the champion this time around was from Woodbury ...
MM: So basically we learned that next time we should wait outside the back door when it's over. When are they in town next?
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©2012 Kara Nesvig and Marcus Michalik (text) and Mandy Dwyer (photos)
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