A highlight of one of our Canadian Badlands road trips in Alberta was the annual Oyen Bullarama. We arrived in the late afternoon in Oyen, a town of 1200 near the Saskatchewan border east of Calgary. The parking lot was already a sea of pickup trucks. A bullarama is professional bullriding and “bloodless bullfighting”- the latter is basically a guy in brightly coloured clothing taunting a huge bull. The event is an adrenalin rush like no other.
The day had been full sun and the evening light was phenomenal. Glenn was up in the announcer’s booth busy snapping pictures. I took to the stands. Everyone from miles around was there, about 4000 people. Service clubs served hot beef on a bun and the best homemade corndogs I’ve ever tasted. The beer tent was busy.
The dirt in the ring flew, the excitement was electric and I was transfixed by the guy on the back of a huge black bull. A local told me
“It’s not if the bullrider gets hurt but when!”
I couldn’t be a mother and watch my son do this, but plenty do. The cowboys who ride the bulls are as tough as nails and few wear any type of head gear other than a cowboy hat, so the likelihood of a bull whipping his big head around and nailing a guy badly is very real. They’re good looking these cowboys in their faded blue jeans and chaps. A big silver belt buckle is the sure sign of a champ and the gals who chase the champs are known as “Buckle Bunnies”. The night we’re there the Cereal kid, a local bullriding champ, wins. His family breeds “stock” (bulls for bullriding) and the kid is from a long line of bullriders. This is Canada’s true wild west. The Oyen Bullarama takes place every year in late July.