The Dallas Examiner
Ride’em cowboy! That was the reaction of the 5,000-plus people that packed and sold out the fifth annual Hip-Hop Cowboys Spring Rodeo at the Mesquite Arena in Mesquite on March 19.
Children, teenagers and adults all came dressed up in their cowboy boots and hats to listen to hip-hop music from various artists and watch a rodeo show that featured bull riding, team roping, ladies barrel racing, tie down roping, junior bull riding, steer wrestling and relay races.
The event was put on by CEO and founder Damon Leffall, who had a specific vision.
“This is our fifth year in Mesquite and basically, the conception of it is that you have your traditional rodeo and we just decided that we wanted to give rodeo a boost of energy,” he said. “We wanted to do a different kind of energy with which we intertwine hip-hop music and just the energy of hip-hop into everything that you have grown to love with traditional rodeo.”
Performing artists included Betty Wright, soul/R&B singer who performed her hits Clean Up Woman and Tonight is the Night, and Paul Wall, a Grammy nominated artist with Swishahouse Records and Atlantic Records. There was also music genres played such as rap, soul, blues, hip-hop and R&B.
“When you come into our show of course you get everything that you would get in a traditional rodeo show but in addition you get added energy of hip-hop in this culture,” Leffall said. “Basically, we have a demographic of 3 years old to 73 years old, we try to have music for everybody. We had Betty Wright appeal to our older crowd. She has celebrated 50 years in the music industry. We also brought Paul Wall, a new rapper based out of Houston.”
He described the rodeo as very competitive with cowboys from Texas and Oklahoma in attendance to show off their skills while wrangling to be the fastest or strongest.
The show opened up with the national anthem as one cowboy carried the American flag while riding a horse and going around the arena. Afterwards, all children were invited to the riding area and danced to the tunes of different hip-hop music. They also got to participate in a calf scramble.
The audience cheered on the competitors during the bull-riding portion. The bull usually won, as many of the cowboys fell off – some in less than a minute.
The crowd also watched a fast-paced relay race with riders on horseback racing each other around the arena.
“The relay races and bull riding were pretty entertaining,” Leffall said. “The kids riding the sheep also had a big crowd because you get to see 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds riding sheep.”
He said he was happy with the crowd turnout, as this was the first time the event was sold out.
“This is our fifth year and we always filled the place and filled the arena up but we definitely never officially sold it out before,” he said. “This year was an official sell-out and we actually had to turn patrons away. This was a big highlight for us and big accomplishment for us being able to sell out the arena. I also talked to some of the business personnel at the arena and they said they hadn’t sold out in over 15 years. This event definitely crossed that barrier.”
Leffall estimates around 5700 attended this year’s spring show.
“Our goal is to be able to travel with this event and bring it to other cities,” he said. “We are also active with the community and we do a lot of stuff such as a turkey drive, and do a ton of stuff for the youth such as donating kid tickets to our event to young kids who would not necessarily be able to come to our shows. Our future cities we would like to do a show in are Atlanta, Georgia and Los Angeles, California.”
Leffall said they are looking forward to hosting their annual show in Mesquite next year.