The moment you enter the Word of Life Ranch for the Friday night Rodeo, you are transported back to the Wild West.
That's when you see the cowboy hats worn by the staff and dozens of kids. Folks are drinking sodas from cowboy boot shaped, plastic mugs. And we spotted several youngsters wearing sheriff's badges.
For years we had been meaning to go to this Friday night tradition, and with house guests and their young daughters in tow, we had finally had our chance last week.
And we all had a blast at this fun, family event. How much fun?
Well, the girls -- Ana and Demi -- measure fun on their fun-o-meter, and after the night was done, that meter was “broken, but in a good way," because they'd had too much fun.
Before the rodeo begins, there's a Family Fun Hour. There's face painting for kids, a bounce house, a playground and a petting zoo, a.k.a the Rodeo Zoo. This is not your typical petting zoo. Kids (and adults) get to mingle with the animals in a large pen. Ana and Demi made friends with a baby goat, its mother, various rabbits, a Llama and sheep.
Then there was a rambunctious, squealing and very spirited piglet, Penelope, who was on a leash being socialized by Schroon Laker Dan Hay. Dan told us Penelope would eventually be a breeder, and it's important for them to get acquainted with humans.
Then it was off to tour the small Wild West town, where the girls posed for pictures in the stockade. There’s a general store for western gear and souvenirs and an amazing snack bar, featuring the famous Rodeo Burger (That burger is so amazing, it’s gonna get it’s own story!)
Throughout the family fun hour, the rodeo's announcers are counting down the start time. At 8pm sharp, the rodeo began. There was a parade of flags before the crowd, made up of locals, tourists, campers from the WOL Ranch, nearby Family Campground and WOL Inn. The crowd is divided into Blue and Red fans, cheering on the rodeo riders who are divided into Blue and Red teams.
For the next hour the riders on each team put themselves and their horses through a series of races, skill courses and herding challenges.
Between events the crowds is entertained by the back and forth banter with the rodeo announcers, including Jon Nazigian, who is also the Director of the WOL Ranch and Ranger Camp.
Jon and his wife Debbie
We learned from Jon the rodeo began in 1955, around the same time as the camp was established. Until a few years ago, the rodeo was held on a Thursday afternoon before camp administrators installed lights at the arena and moved it to its Friday night home.
"By having it on a Friday night, the whole community can come out," Jon told us.
Around 20 wranglers, who work at the camp -- and half a dozen locals -- ride in the rodeo. Jon is no stranger to the rodeo or camp. His parents met there in the1950s. And as long as Jon can remember, he’s spent most of his summers here.
As a teenager he got to work in the rodeo as a rodeo clown. Jon, now an educator in Fredericksburg, Virginia, spends the school year there before coming up to run the camp over the summer.
“We are very proud of what we do here. People love the rodeo. We have families who come back year after year.For information about the rodeo click here.For more information about the ranger camp click here.
Where and When. The Rodeo is located on Route 9 in Pottersville. It runs every Friday night until the end of August. For directions, click here