By Joe Nick Patoski
Denton Live Fall/Winter 2005
The North Texas State Fair and Rodeo should not be confused with the State Fair of Texas just down the road in Dallas. Just ask any of the 90,000 or so folks who converge on Denton for the nine-day bash every August. They know the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo may not be the biggest fair in Texas, just the best. Now in its 77th year, the extravaganza celebrates the Denton community, the rich farming and ranching traditions of the North Texas prairie, and its storied Western heritage. The event features a combination of livestock shows, rodeos, a full complement of carnival rides and midway attractions, a Kid’s Zone with free activities, big-name musical acts, and one not-so-giant superstar.
That last one would be Whiplash, the smallest rodeo rider in the history of the sport, who will be making a featured appearance at the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo this summer. Measuring a mere 2 feet, 6 inches with his arms raised above his head, Whiplash is actually Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey. An 18-year-old capuchin, he rides his trusty steeds Ben and Bud, two Scottish sheepdogs, and herds sheep like a seasoned ranch hand, while also performing stunts, doing tricks, and, well, acting like your average monkey.
Tiny Whiplash was voted Act of the Year for 2003 and 2004 by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today show, and ESPN’s SportsCenter. You can catch his act at each of the North Texas State Fair’s rodeo performances. “Everyone is looking for a smile,” says his trainer, Tommy Lucia, “and he’s the one to deliver it.” See for yourself what’s in store at whiplashrides.com.
One of the fair’s most distinctive attractions is that not one but four entirely different rodeos are staged over the nine-day event. The PRCA Professional Cowboy Rodeo opens the fair August 19-21. On August 22, the one-of-a-kind All-Mule Rodeo is held, featuring mule riding, mule team roping, and barrel-racing mules. “It’s rodeo with a comedy flair,” says fair executive director Glenn Carlton. The Youth Rodeo moves in August 23-24 for cowboys and cowgirls 21 years old and under. The fair closes out August 25-27 with the Miller Lite Bull Blowout, along with the Cowboy Protection Bullfight Team Competition, in which bullfighters — those guys known as rodeo clowns when they’ve got their makeup on — demonstrate their fancy footwork around a stampede of bulls.
Following each rodeo performance is an evening concert starring country entertainers like award-winner Kevin Fowler, who performs on opening night, Tommy Alverson who headlines the next night, and Rick Trevino who perfomrs on Sunday. Other notable artists include Deryl Dodd, Cooder Graw, the Randy Rogers Band, and 16-year-old singing sensation Johnny Cooper.
The North Texas State Fair and Rodeo also includes the Texas Junior Anglers, a fishing exhibit, Mobile Ark Exhibit, and petting zoo in the Kid’s Zone; the biggest annual parade in Denton to, from, and around the Denton County Courthouse Square; the Dan Barth Old Time Medicine Show; an authentic chuckwagon complete with cooking demonstrations; and the Mutton Bustin’ contest in which kids ages 4–7 ride a sheep, with finalists competing on the last Saturday of the fair.
If all that wasn’t enough, throughout the event, local vendors will be tempting visitors with some down-home cooking, including turkey legs, fajitas, tacos, barbecue, and sausage on a stick.
Of course, all this fun wouldn’t happen without the tireless help of more than 250 volunteers from the Denton community and funding from various corporate partners. The fruits of that labor are the annual North Texas State Fair and Rodeo Association scholarships, which are awarded from the fair proceeds, with remaining funds plowed into fairground improvements. Since 1999, more than $500,000 has been invested in upgrading infrastructure on the 31-acre site, including the installation of air conditioning in the exhibition hall.
Gates open at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. on the weekends, and be sure to stay late for the boot-scootin’ country tunes.
“There isn’t a better entertainment value in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” boasts Glenn Carlton.