Hellzapoppin Rodeo – Buckeye Days Old West Experience

hellzapoppin-saturday-1Buckeye, Arizona.

In January each year, Buckeye celebrates their cowboy heritage with Buckeye Days. The two-day celebration features a parade, a cattle drive down main street Buckeye and among other attractions, a professional rodeo. As the proud owner of a new D500 Nikon camera, I needed an excuse to try sports photography, a class of photography that reviews of the D500 said the camera excels at capturing. I was not to be disappointed in either the rodeo or the camera’s operation. The camera’s ability to fire off 10 images a second allowed me to capture short collections of images, each sharply focused and at 1/2000 of a second, a small slice of time that is often measured in 8-second rides (or less in some cases.)


The rodeo features cowboys who belong to the NSPRA (National Seniors Professional Rodeo Association.) It’s an exclusive club open only to members who have achieved the elevated status of 40 anniversaries of their life on this planet. Point handicaps are offered for riders in their 70’s and 80’s, and the oldest participant in this year’s team roping event is 84 years young. (He is not necessarily either of the two cowboys in the image above.) Incidentally, there is a reason the gallery looks empty in the image above. When I mentioned going to the rodeo to photograph, a friend commented that if I go a day early, I can view their practice sessions. Very few spectators and lots of time to practice. Going a day early allowed me to determine the best place in the venue to be to capture action without being in the way of other people who came to watch the rodeo. It was a great idea. I found the best place to stand and shoot, below the level of people in the stands and a clear view of all the action.

hellzapoppin-saturday-6The rodeo, unlike the PRCA (Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association), allows amateur photographers to photograph their events. I recently learned, after bringing my camera to a PRCA rodeo, that only PRCA members with photography credentials are allowed to bring a camera into the arena. No matter, there is plenty of action available at an NSPRA rodeo as can be evidenced by the bull ride in the image above.

hellzapoppin-9Not all the participants are advanced in years at the Hellzapoppin’ Rodeo. Mutton Bustin’ (sheep riding) is an open competition for 5-7 year old cowboys and cowgirls in training. Each day, 20 mutton busters competed for the longest ride. Turns out that sheep don’t much like kids on their backs. Some rides were surprisingly short, but this young man hung on to be one of the top contenders.

hellzapoppin-12Barrel racing is a popular feature and several competitors vied for the best time around a short course with a 360-degree turn around each barrel. There are so many things going on at the rodeo and with the camera’s ability to capture so many precise moments in time, the gallery featured below is one of the largest I’ve shared. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.


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