Cowboy Hospitality: the Rodeo's Unsung Heroes
When you’re out on the road and the only food option seems to be an endless barrage of burger joints and big chains, nothing sounds better than a little home cooking. For the past three years, JoAnn Carr and a team of cooks and volunteers have been lending their talents to the rodeo’s cowboy hospitality room, ensuring that performers are given something fresh, prepared and free for meal times on performance days.
Chicken and dressing, meatloaf, spaghetti and other menu items are whipped up by three or four cooks, who prepare between 100 and 150 meals per day for hungry cowboys, cowgirls, rodeo staff and others. On days like Saturday, when there are multiple performances, the hospitality room will put out up to 300 meals. But the location isn’t just about the food, Carr says.
“We’ll find that a lot of the contestants, they’re in their trailers all the time, and they’ll come over here in the evenings after they‘ve performed and they’ll be over here just sitting around playing cards or talking,” she said. “It’s just a place to get out and not be sitting in your trailer that you’re in 24/7 because you live in it on the road.”
The room is outfitted with a television where contestants can watch the rodeo live or start again from the beginning after performances have ended to see themselves on screen. Just before and after performances are busy times, says Carr, whose noticed eating habits of various contestants over the past three years.
“We stay open till after the rodeo,” Carr says. “A lot of the contestants don’t like to eat before they perform, obviously. Some of them, like the steer wrestlers, like to eat twice because they need the extra weight. They won’t eat before so they’ll come after, or they’ll come after their event.
Carr has between 20 and 25 volunteers on staff that prepare and serve the meals, and works with other organizations who supply the cakes for dessert. Among the most popular items on the menu, however, is the green stuff, Carr says.
“One of their favorites is the salad bar,” she said. “I don’t know if other rodeos don’t have that or what, but they like it a lot,” she adds. Especially if they’ve been given hamburgers for the past several days.
Carr says that since the cowboy hospitality room has been under her control, it’s been well received. She says she tries to focus on hand-made home cooking to provided the contestants with something authentic and says the best part of it is knowing that the men and women appreciate their efforts.
“The young little bull riders, who, bless their hearts, are so young, and so determined and they don’t have a lot of money—in fact, every contestant—they thank you, thank you, thank you,” she explains what makes it all worthwhile. “They are so grateful and so nice and so sweet. I’ve never had one—ever—since I’ve been involved, be rude or ugly, they’re just always so thankful and it’s just ‘yes ma’am and no ma’am and thank you’ and you don’t get to see that a lot anymore.”
JoAnn Carr and her team of cooks and volunteers will be preparing meals for performers and their families every performance day till the end of rodeo. She says she plans to keep on going each year.
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