In 1982, country singer George Strait and his brother, Buddy, started a small family-run open roping that is now one of the premiere team roping events in the nation. Until a few years ago, Strait still participated in his George Strait Team Roping Classic, but as he approached 60, he decided the sport was too hard on him physically and bowed out.
Earlier events were held in Kingsville, TX, but they are now in Boerne (sounds like journey), a suburb of San Antonio, at the San Antonio Rose Palace, which Strait owns. This year saw 675 teams competing for $1 million in cash and prizes. All of them competed the first day, Friday, March 13, then the top 50 came back on Saturday the 14th. The two members of the winning team walked away with more than $275,000 in cash, a Chevy Silverado dually pick-up and a specially-decorated George Strait bumper-pull trailer -- each!
|This steer is roped!|
In team roping, a header ropes the steer's horns, while the heeler lassoes his hind legs. The object is to be the fastest, and many teams finished a round in less than five seconds. Seconds are added to a score if only one leg is roped, and a team receives no score if the steer gets away sans rope. Scores for each team’s three rounds are combined to determine winners.
The Rose Palace holds 4,500 people, but with half of it partitioned off for vendors and a warm-up round pen for the participants, I’d say about half that number of stadium-type seats were available. Most of them were filled with middle-aged and older females who have followed Strait since his first single, “Unwound,” came out in 1981. They know that Strait has had a phenomenal career, out-selling all other country music entertainers with 60 Number One chart-toppers, and outlasting them with 33 years of CDs and tours. His last concert tour, The Cowboy Rides Away, was in 2013-2014. He's taking 2015 off, then will pick and choose where he wants to perform. Far from gone from the music scene, however, Strait has signed a contract with MCA Records for five more albums. He turns 63 in May.
|Strait makes his way around arena.|
Fan club members packed the seats nearest the glassed press box in the Rose Palace, hoping for a glimpse of the King of Country. They came armed with cameras, seat cushions, blankets, homemade gifts for the Strait family, and the hope that Saturday morning, they'll be at the fence to touch The King’s hand as he circles the arena on horseback and high-fives everyone within reach. Yes, many of them brought husbands and boyfriends, and actually watched the team roping, too.
|The top ropers line up for fans.|
Although the gates opened at 8 a.m. and the roping started at 10, cars lined up as early as 6 a.m. because the seats are general admission. My friend Annette and I arrived about 7:30 that Friday morning, and there were at least two dozen cars ahead of us. But we got decent seats. We left about 5 p.m., tired and hungry, but the event didn't end until the wee hours of the morning.
Saturday, we were in line by 7 a.m., but there were twice as many cars ahead of us. Like I said, it's the day the lucky ones get to touch the hand of the King. As for me, I was just happy to be in the presence of so many cowboys, most wearing starched jeans and shirts, boots and hats, and saying, "M'am" whenever they addressed you. We joked about bringing one or two home with us, but it just didn't work out.
Oh well, Maybe next year.