Dripping Springs Rodeo keeps ranching culture alive
Craig Moore has separated and broken his ribs on two occasions, broken his wrist, and been knocked unconscious a few times. But he hasn’t had “his face kicked off.” So he describes himself as “very blessed.” He also lost his front tooth, but that wasn’t too bad because, he says, it helped him get a role as a bad guy in a movie.
Craig lives an adrenalin-packed life as a saddle bronc rider rodeo competitor and a stunt double for television and movies. His rodeo competition entails riding wild horses that are free to roam in pastures all week. On weekends, the horses are trained to buck and give rodeo riders a short but wild ride.
“My favorite part is being in the chute when you nod your head,” says Craig, explaining that the head nod signals to the gateman to open the shoot. “Then everything breaks loose.”
Craig, who lives on a ranch in Dripping Springs, started out riding colts and breaking them to ride. His wife saw how much fun he was having and signed him up for bronc riding school. Ever since, he’s been hooked.
Over the years, bronc riding has become much more to Craig than a hobby, he says. He also has a ranch connoisseur business, Cowboys for Hire, a ranch management business for ranchers looking to outsource land and ranch operations. “You don’t make much money, but rodeo gets in you, and you get addicted to it.”
Craig is one of many dedicated rodeo competitors who compete each year at the annual Dripping Springs Fair and Rodeo, which will be held this year at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park & Event Center. The event is in its sixth year and has been organized each year by rodeo chairman and local firefighter Rich Moore.
The Dripping Springs Agriculture Boosters Club came up with the rodeo idea seven years ago while looking for new ways to raise money to keep local students engaged in agriculture. At the time, Rich was president of the agriculture club, and the group was looking for a volunteer to organize the new event. Rich decided to step up and lead the effort with the help of the City of Dripping Springs. “I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing,” he says.
Without a rodeo background, Rich helped turn the event, which now attracts more than 3,000 attendees a year, into a main attraction for Dripping Springs. “We’ve had visitors from New York, London—we’ve had people from all over,” says Rich.
Rodeos are not difficult to find in Texas, of course—the state boasts plenty. But what sets the Dripping Springs rodeo apart from many others is its community feel, Rich explains. “The big ones are like going to the Super Bowl. Our rodeo is a high school football game on Friday night. They’re both fun, just different.”
The sense of community is a big differentiator, says Craig, who has competed in hundreds of rodeos across the country. “A lot of rodeos do not have hospitality. At the Dripping Springs rodeo, they feed you and take good care of you. A lot don’t do that,” he explains, adding that Dripping Springs’ hospitality extends to the animals, which are treated very well.
The small-town community feel also provides an organic entertainment experience, compared to events at some larger rodeos, where the acts can be much more scripted. People never know exactly what is going to happen during the Dripping Springs rodeo, says Rich. For example, one of the biggest attractions is the mutton button shoot-out, where any kid in the audience can hop onto the back of a sheep and see how long they can ride.
Rodeo sports stem from agriculture and farming, where ranchers often used to compare their ranch-hand skills. Or as Rich describes, rodeo started with “cowboys showing off during their down time.”
Today, rodeo is still very much about the competition. Craig describes the rodeo as a “young man’s game,” yet at 38, he is still in full rodeo mode, traveling every weekend from rodeo to rodeo with his family, and making his way back to the Dripping Springs Fair and Rodeo each year to proudly perform in his hometown.
As he sits atop a horse in a chute at the local rodeo, he gives a confident nod to the gateman, and one thing is certain: cowboys are alive and well in Dripping Springs.
Dripping Springs Fair and Rodeo activities include bull riding, saddle bronc riding, ladies bronc riding, and steer wrestling. Live music, food, arts and crafts, a kids’ carnival, and a dance on the final night of the rodeo are also part of the entertainment.
All proceeds from the event go to the Dripping Springs Agriculture Booster Club. To find out more about the Dripping Springs Fair and Rodeo, held July 21–23, go to www.drippingspringsfairandrodeo.com.