After missing last year, Cattle Congress returns to Waterloo

The crowd erupts into cheers as the buzzer sounds and Nick Jordan hops off the bucking horse to the dirt ground of the Hippodrome. Everyone in the crowd is cheering and clapping as the horse and Jordan leave the center of the Hippodrome. 

Sept. 22 through 26 was this year’s annual Cattle Congress Fair in Waterloo. Every year in September, Cattle Congress comes to town, bringing rides, lots of fried food from a variety of venders, farmers showing their animals and the rodeo finalists competing in the Hippodrome. 

Just like at the annual Sturgis Falls fair, Cattle Congress has a variety of rides. Ranging from tiny rides for the kids, all the way up to rides meant to make even the oldest of adults scream. The rides are spread out throughout the empty parking lots between all of the buildings, and lines for the wristbands and tickets sometimes stretch to the food venders.

At the fair there are many food vendors, ranging from ice cream and tacos to the classic fried foods and fountain drinks. 

Cattle Congress also includes a lot of farm animals. There are multiple barn halls and stables on the grounds where farmers and livestock owners show their animals. Within these halls there are pigs, horses, goats, cows, llamas, bunnies and chickens/roosters. Many owners bring their animals to Cattle Congress to win awards and be a part of the fair. People at the fair are able to walk through these barns and look at the animals but cannot touch them. 

Some of the animals and livestock at Cattle Congress are for sale or on display for awards, and among the many varieties of breeds for sale in the stalls were the Silver Duckwing Old English Game Bantam Rooster, the Red Pyle Old English Game Bantam Rooster, the Continental/ German Giant Rabbit and the Mini Rex (Velveteen Rabbit).

Cattle Congress is one of the local fairs Black Hawk country has annually (not including last year due to COVID-19), but the main thing that makes Cattle Congress unique is the rodeo where cowboys and cowgirls get a chance to compete and show off their skills with cows and horses in the Hippodrome.

The rodeo started at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday night and featured many different cowboys and cowgirls from various counties within the state that were competing for titles and money. Hosted by the Iowa Rodeo Cowboys Association, finals were Sept. 23, 24 and 25. Announced by Brandon McLagen and judged by Ed Waldhauser, Darrin Wing and Rusty Gheer, with the arena director and IRCA president Dallas Klien, there were several events involving horses and cattle to have the finalists of the competition compete for 2021 titles. 

These events involved girls barrel racing, bull riding, bareback riding, breakaway roping, team roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, over 40 calf roping and regular calf roping. 

Each night, the national anthem was sung, cowgirls rode the sponsors flags around the arena, and all of the individuals participating in the night lined up on their horses before the events began. 

Barrel racing is when riders are on their horses and have to weave around three different barrels in the fastest time possible. If a barrel is knocked over, then there is a penalty that adds time to the individual’s score. 

Bull riding is when a cowboy is on an aggravated bull and is released from a gate. The bull is bucking and trying to get the rider off while they hold on for 8 seconds with only one hand. It is a dangerous sport with lots of injuries, but many cowboys do this, and some choose to wear a helmet while others stick to their cowboy hats. 

Bareback riding is essentially the same thing, but on a horse and there is no saddle, so it is very difficult for the rider to hold on. Breakaway roping is when riders are on their horses and they try to catch the calves with a lasso, and they then jump off their horses and tie the calves’ legs together as fast as possible. 

These and many other events all competed as finalists on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The cowboys and cowgirls of the IRCA put on a smooth show that had the crowd screaming and cheering from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

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