Ahhh. New Years Eve 2011.
Being relatively new to Darwin I do not have a huge social life yet and did not have many options for New Years Eve. Plenty of pubs up here and various parties including masquerade balls but the idea of turning up to one of these alone was not highly appealing. I also had an offer for a private night at home cooking dinner with a new found friend. This was a lovely genuine offer but it is not a friendship that I want to encourage too much. Also there is always the option of staying home alone.
I settled on a Rodeo that was not a Rodeo. I think that is because there were no horses involved. It was promoted as the Bulls and Babes Spectacular. We were promised 50 Bull rides and a bevy of beauties. I justified this "spectacular" on the grounds of broadening my horizons and experiencing a bit of the local culture. It would be sad indeed in a few years time to look back on my life and say gee I never got to a Bull Riding show. I have seen plenty of babes so that bit was not so important.
The venue was a pavilion at the Darwin Show grounds. On arrival there was a bunch of what I took to be backpackers in a Camper van changing. It turned out this was the band and one or two of their friends.
Paying my entry fee ($30) I made my way into the venue and wandered around. Drinks were served from temporary bar areas, beer, soft drinks and premix spirits in cans all cooled in bins full of ice. You could have any choice of spirits as long as it was bourbon and coke. It was required that you bought tickets for the drinks from a different location set of tables.
The bull ring took pride of place and consisted of temporary fencing with a sand floor. Gates at the rear contained the bulls while they were being saddled and chutes allowed new bulls into the gated area. A stage for the band was to the right of the ring and tables and stools set up around the whole venue including an upper mezzanine level where I found a spare seat at a table.
Music was playing, a mix of light and medium heavy rock and pop. Think of Queen, We will Rock You, Metallica, Enter Sandman, Pat Benetar, All Fired Up. You get the picture.
The lights were low and Varilights and spotlights roamed the crowd and ring. A smoke machine filled the ring with smoke and a man commenced a spiel that was piped around the arena. It was almost unintelligable, a combination of poor amplification and speakers conflicting with each other. The crowd roared however and seemed to be having fun.
The event started with a herd of bulls running around the ring and then the Bull Riding really got underway. A succession of bulls released from the gates with riders on top. Few survived long and came off with various degrees of control. One rider rode his bull until it gave up, many ended up on the floor where upon the bull generally had an attempt to gore the rider with its horns. On these occasions helpers ran out to try and distract the bull enabling the rider to escape over the fence. Often the bull would give up easily and leave the arena on its own accord. On a few occasions the bulls proved uncooperative and refused to leave. They held their ground and attacked the helpers. Generally at this stage they released another bull and the two would generally leave together. One in particular, a mammoth beast, held its ground for about 15 minutes before finally being coaxed out. The crowd was cheering the bull.
But the riders did not always win. Two were carried off by ambulance having been on the wrong end of the horns. One of the helpers was attacked from behind when he foolishly turned his back on an open gate. A few riders were bruised and limping by the end of the night.
It was a pretty friendly crowd and I saw no evidence of excessive drinking or obnoxious behaviour. A lot of Cowboy hats, some genuine daily headwear but some in such good condition that I wasn't sure whether some of these belonged to urban cowboys or were their best going out hat.
Some of the bulls were obviously crowd favourites as were some of the riders. It was easy to get into the excitement and adrenaline of seeing a rider doing well on a particularly vicious bull.
Oh I almost forgot the babes.
Periodically a competition was held which basically involved the babes appearing in bikinis and parading around the outside of the ring. All very amateur but appreciated by the crowd. Even the women seemed to be getting into it and I saw several women with cameras taking pictures. Yes they were babes, all slim, all with legs, all with breasts and all very very young, late teens I would guess. Sorry guys no pictures to show. These ladies were "judged" and I have no idea what the criteria was but one was awarded a cash prize.
Overall a fun night, the Bludger has spent worse New years Eves'.