LETHEM, Guyana (AP) — Their horses’ hooves kick up dust amid blaring country music as participants enter the arena to begin the Rupununi Ranchers Rodeo, a celebration of the cowboy lifestyle on Guyana’s rugged Rupununi savannah.
The two-day, annual rodeo draws thousands of visitors from Guyana’s capital and other countries, especially neighboring Brazil. The event is held in Lethem town in the Rupununi Region also known as Region 9 – Upper-Takutu-Upper Essequibo in southwest Guyana.
Competitions include bareback bronco riding, saddle bronco, steer roping, ribbon roping and wild cow milking.
The event has become so popular it even has participants from Britain, the United States and Brazil. But most of the participants are local cowboys who get together to pit their skills.
Rancher Ian RodrIguez has lived his whole life in Rupununi and owns the lot of land where the rodeo is held. His father was chief judge of the rodeo before he died. RodrIguez is following in his father’s footsteps as a secondary judge.
“Lethem, Rupununi was known as one of the biggest livestock rearing regions. We had a lot of good ranchers, cattle,” he said. “And we do it for commercial interest … so everybody growing up knows that Lethem is a ranching area, The Rupununi. That’s why the legacy lives on.”
Besides being a local tradition the rodeo is a growing tourist attraction.
A worker opens the gate and the cows burst into the arena. One man ropes a cow, wrestling it to a near standstill while a second man frantically milks the struggling animal.
Business teacher Shinier Smartt, 22, traveled from Georgetown, Guyana’s capital, with her friends to see the rodeo for the first time.
“The scenery has just been very much beautiful,” Smartt after one of the events. “We are here for the famous rodeo and so far it has been very thrilling.”
Among of attendees of the rodeo on Saturday was Guyana’s President Mohamed Irfaan Ali who toured the rodeo wearing a cowboy hat.
The rodeo is organized by The Rodeo Committee which is a part of the Rupununi Livestock Producer’s Association.