Live bull riding in the middle of town? You bet.
Every Wednesday from June through October, Rowdy’s transforms from a small Gooding restaurant and beer bar to an entertainment powerhouse, drawing both novice and top seeded bull riders, lured by an eight-second ride.
While some drinking establishments rely on happy hour, Rowdy’s has found that live bull riding on Main Street brings in a crowd.
“People will spend, but they have to be entertained. Just coming for a beer doesn’t do it, people want to be entertained,” said Stacee Parks, a certified public accountant who owns the establishment with partner Johnny U, local entertainer, realtor and former rodeo man.
The idea for bull riding on Main Street was Johnny’s idea.
“I’m the conservative one,” Parks said, laughing. “At first I thought he was crazy. The idea of getting bulls in and preparing a riding area, keeping the crowd safe, I didn’t know how we would pull it off.”
But pull it off they did – and over a year later, Rodeo Wednesdays are as popular as ever. Many people come earlier than the 7:30 p.m. start to have dinner before heading out the side door to where the real action is.
“People have come from all over, even as far as Australia, to see what this is all about,” Parks said.
While the cowboys gear up for their bull ride, singles and families alike mingle with friends while children run barefoot in the dusty lot.
“This is family-friendly, too,” Parks said.
Bulls, supplied by livestock contractors Williams and Ford Rodeo, line up toward the chutes. Sturdy paneling keeps the crowd and the bulls safely divided.
Parks pulls out all the stops to make sure the crowd is entertained. Rock and powerhouse country music set the tone while her waitresses, dressed in coordinating black tank-tops and embellished designer blue jeans, keep the food and drink coming.
To pull in serious riders, the venue offers a cash purse. Points are tallied throughout the season
with the top-ranked bull rider awarded a Las Vegas getaway for two. Meanwhile, females can participate in quick-draw paintball duels for a chance at a similar prize.
Mostly, riders come for the practice. They aren’t discouraged by the middle-of-town setting.
“I’ve been riding bulls for three years,” said young rider Charlie Scolari, 17, of Caldwell, wiping a bead of sweat off his brow with the back of his hand. “I’m from a rodeo family but wanted a way to separate my identity from my father’s. I wanted some space.”
For now, he’s in it for the money, needed to pursue his dream of moving to Texas and securing a spot in the National Finals Rodeo.
His backup plan is to get a college degree in business, riding with a school team along the way.
“That’s just trinkets and tokens,” Scolari said about college rodeo. “I want to ride for cash.”
Other riders, like 26-year-old Ryan Childs of Gooding, are drawn by passion and the opportunity to ride. Coming off a 7.4-second run on July 14, Childs was covered in dust, a little short of breath, but grinning ear-to-ear.
During his ride, Childs periodically spurred the bull’s flanks, creating a rougher ride.
“That wasn’t too bad,” Childs said.
The bulls are young buckers, Childs said, but worth riding.
“This is a good opportunity for both riders and the bulls to practice,” Childs said.
Gooding and the surrounding communities have supported the venue “exceptionally well,” according to Parks, but plans are in the works to draw more folks from the Twin Falls area.
“We’re trying to get a party bus for transportation from Twin, but it’s still in negotiations,” she said.
Party bus or not, the drive to Rowdy’s is definitely worth it.