An Exhilarating, Fun Time
By Stephan Sookram
Overland travel to Lethem is fun especially if you are an adventurous person thrilled by off-road drives, but the next four days in this town located on the border with Brazil for their annual Rodeo celebrations is an absolute blast.
Lethem by itself is hot, and I’m not talking about the people alone. With loom-covered roads and, large swaths of savannah and surrounding mountains, central Lethem is hot and dusty during the dry season.
This did not stop the buzz in the home of the Rupununi Rodeo; that too as the exciting event made a comeback after restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic were lifted. Locals quickly began setting up selling points and stalls for various food, clothing and other items along the roadways over the weekend,making It easier to not just feel rodeo but to also dress the part.
The first event of the much anticipated Rupununi Rodeo was the pageant where participants decked out in their best cowgirl outfits and elaborate costume designs,strutted the stage and showcase their talents and the culture of their various Regions known for its many ranches. This entertaining event did not disappoint!
The Rodeo showcases the way of life of the Rupununi people and each of the delegates of the pageant brought with them their own flair from the different parts of the region, speaking at length about their respective areas, what it was known for and what changes they think would best benefit the regions Exiciting The crowd with their dance ,singingand poetry talents.
And by the end of the night, the Rupununi had a new pageant queen, their first in over two years. Aside from that, however, the stalls within the rodeo ground were alive with the many tourists who had gathered for the Easter Weekend getaway.
Stalls selling the locally made Caipirinha cocktail, mixed with different local fruits were populated by those who saw a welcome return of the festival to the town. Various food and roast stations were flocked by patrons waiting to get a bite of the delectable dishes offered.
On Saturday, the activities kicked off with ‘the greasy pig’ where skilled cowboys from ranches across the Rupununi tried to catch the pigs covered in grease for a special prize was acrowd favorite with lots of laughter and participation .Thewatermelon eating competition was abig hit with visitors participating and the ladies joined in the fun with adance off competition.
The main eventsthen followed with the various vaqueros participating in the bull riding and horse-riding contests. Showcasing their riding abilities as they skillfully maneuvered on the saddles of the bucking broncos and energetic bulls to see who could remain on the saddle the longest without been thrown off by the animal.
The bareback bronco was an especially entertaining segment to view, the skill and balance required by the cowboys often times leaving the crowd at the edge of their seats. One such appealing event, was the lady’s segment of the bareback bronco and one such lady caught our eye.
Tayna Aarjoan from Lethem is an employee of a public sector agency but shares an innate love for horseback riding was a shining point of the weekend.
‘This is my second time riding horses. The first time was before COVID and everything and I got first then [this year I decided to try again] because I just like it,’ she said when she spoke to us.
She added,’ I never practiced riding horses, my dad had worked at a ranch before and I had a lot of exposure to horses but I never really practiced or anything. He would just put us to ride. I just like it because I enjoy it and I can’t really explain it.’
Later in the afternoon, the Rupununi committee welcomed the President of Guyana and several Government Ministers who declared the event open, promising an unseen form of development from this major tourism and industry hub.
ÒWe intend to build this event to be the best,’ the President said.
With plans to build the event to one which can welcome more regional participants and visitors, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond encouraged more investments in the Tourism and hospitality sector in the region. Many persons hoping to travel to the region for this year’s Rodeo were unable to book flights or a place to stay while in Lethem. The Minister said ‘the predicted growth should inspire confidence for more people to invest in quality accommodation and service to meet the rapidly increasing demand. More people would’ve been here if they were able to secure accommodation and it’s therefore imperative that we pay serious attention to this and we look at the bigger picture and we project to a brighter future.’
Into the evening a crowd favorite was on show, The Bull Riding segment. This garnered the most gasps from the crowd as the Bulls were wild trying their best to overturn the vaqueros on their backs! Once successful they charged the riders which were left scampering for safety and were helped by the masterfully athletic ring clowns which served as distractions for the bulls to allow the riders to get away safely. Various other cattle ranching displays were on show throughout the evening. It truly was a spectacle!
Another mainstay of the weekend festival was the carnival-style rides in the compound where visitors could get their own exhilaration.
The Ferris Wheel, hammer toss machines, and a mechanical bull had large queues of persons eager to try them for the first time in a while and while the lines snaked to all parts of the park, there was more than enough activity to make your trip to the town worthwhile.
Carnival games were also in abundance. Ring toss, BB gun challenges and even a trivia game set up by one of the many booths provided much entertainment for all ages before, during and even after the exploits of the bull-riders.
The two-day event had more than its fair share of things to do and enjoy for both tourists and locals alike.
It is no wonder why the Rupununi Rodeo is one of the largest sporting events for the year in Guyana, and people make the long trek from Georgetown and other parts of the country to enjoy.
Make this event a must do on your calendar once you get the chance!
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