Shady Dale Rodeo

Roping team member practices at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

A member of the roping team practices at the 2013 Shady Dale Rodeo.

I grew up pretty close to Shady Dale, Georgia, but I didn’t attend my first Shady Dale Rodeo until I was well into my 20s. It was about 6-7 years ago, when I was working as a photographer for the Griffin Daily News. I was blown away that this had been going on right up the road from me for most of my life and I had yet to attend. I immediately fell in love with rodeos and the people who attend them.

Sunset behind stands at Shady Dale Rodeo.

A bronc rider ties a strap around his boots at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

A bronc rider ties a strap around his boots.

So I decided to go back this year and document the event, which is in it’s 30th year. My lovely girlfriend, Wendi Bozeman, and myself made the trip up past Monticello to this one-horse town (rodeo humor!) on Friday and Saturday night. And this isn’t just some backyard rodeo — it’s a pro event. It is produced by the Southern Rodeo Company, is sanctioned by the International Professional Rodeo Association.

Rodeos have such an authenticity to them, even more so now to me than my first trip. It is such a break from everything else that I do. The dirt, the leather, the tobacco, the hats — they combine into a perfect mix of wild west nostalgia that is runs deep for many Americans, myself included. This nostalgia is chronicled extremely well in William Albert Allard‘s collection of photographs that appeared in his book, Vanishing Breed: Photographs of the Cowboy and the West. Published in 1984, this book is full of spectacular, larger-than-life portraits and vignettes of everyday cowboy life. I bring this book up because I recently checked it out at the local library. And while I had no idea (when I checked it out) that I would soon be covering a rodeo, it definitely had an influence on how I photographed the event.

Justin Milford watches the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Justin Milford watches the rodeo from atop a fence.

Saddle bronc rider Zaine Seales tries to get out of the way of angry horse at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Saddle bronc rider Zaine Seales tries to get out of the way of angry horse.

Bull riding at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Getting ready to attempt 8 seconds.

Rodeo Bible Meeting at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Saturday’s Bible meeting.

Bud Humphries grits his teeth before leaving the gate for his saddle bronc ride at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Bud Humphries grits his teeth before leaving the gate for his saddle bronc ride.

Pro rodeo clown Mike Wentworth shows off his bikini at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Pro rodeo clown Mike Wentworth shows off his bikini.

Bull riders helping each other out at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Bull riders helping each other out.

Cowboy is upended during calf wrestling at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Calf wrestling.

And these riders do this stuff week in and week out. For money. Trey Moore, 19, of Summerville, Georgia (portrait below), drove to Illinois for a rodeo on Friday night, only to drive back to Georgia for the Shady Dale Rodeo on Saturday.

Portrait of Trey Moore, 19, of Summerville, Ga., at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Portrait of Trey Moore, 19, of Summerville, Georgia.

Portrait of Bud Humphries, 24, of Cowpens, S.C., at the Shady Dale Rodeo.

Portrait of Bud Humphries, 24, of Cowpens, S.C.

I know that rodeos are a long way from the life of moving cattle that cowboys in the west lived and died doing (and Allard chronicled), but it’s as close as I’ll ever come to it in Georgia.

3 Comments

  1. Reply
    Gary Moore June 10, 2013

    All great shots! The top one, the Justin Milford and Calf Wrestling are my favorites.

  2. Reply
    Wynelle Ruark June 10, 2013

    Great pictures, Kevin!!! We were down Saturday night, but Lee, Larissa and baby were worn out from helping get ready for it, and they were there Friday night and Saturday. Lee and Jesse rode down and said they had a capacity crowd. Next year I’ll go!! Jesse lives in Shady Dale.

  3. Reply
    kevindliles June 10, 2013

    Thanks Gary and Wynelle! Yes, Wynelle, it was definitely a packed house Saturday night. If I go next year, I’ll see you there!

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