Raleigh’s rodeo


photographs and text by Nick Pironio

I’m always amazed by the number of hidden gems you can find in Raleigh. One of my personal favorites is Carousel Farms. For years, I let anyone who would listen know that every Tuesday evening during the summer, you can make the drive to the edge of town and catch a rodeo.

I’ve covered many sporting events as a photographer, and this is definitely one of the most exciting. Maybe it’s because I can get so close to the action, but I think it’s really the atmosphere. Not even a rainstorm can ruin the evening. On these summer nights, you can watch the sun set as storms pass in the distance. When you look around, you see the smoke rising from the grill, you smell it in the air, and everyone has a smile on their face. They’re in the moment, taking in all the action.

The field is full of horse trailers and riders ready to race around the barrels. Teenagers parade around the grounds while the bull riders anticipate their turn in the ring. There’s always a chicken dance between the events, where people of all ages run out to the center of the bull ring to dance.

When the bulls are led into gates, the riders begin to saddle up. What they’re about to do is often referred to as the most dangerous eight seconds in sports. Every time you see a bull buck or ram into a fence, you realize the risks the riders take for those few seconds of glory. Watching the riders flip in the air, get pummeled by bull hooves, and narrowly escape can make you wonder what’s it all for. But when you see that one perfect ride, it makes you want to try it yourself.

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