In Manhattan, cowboy hats, chaps, and cowhides are almost exclusively the domain of gay pride week, but this weekend, at the Versus Invitational bull-riding competition at Madison Square Garden, exceptions were made for professional bull riders and the fans that love/fear for them.
Neon cowboy hats and enormous mustaches reigned—and not just on the out-of-towners. Graphic designers, Yeshiva students, and lawyers from the greater metropolitan area happily hushed for the opening prayer, saluted a huge American flag hanging from the ceiling, and cheered the supreme cheesiness of a team of rodeo clowns. In a quick minute, New Yorkers became common cowpoke. One particularly excited Manhattanite wearing a five-gallon number put it best: “I think it’s offensive to not wear a cowboy hat.”
New Yorkers may have occasionally botched the dress code, but they certainly made up for it with enthusiasm. A particularly vocal foursome sat near the bull pens cheered in their Rangers jerseys. One man traded his trusty No. 1 finger for a gynormous orange foam hat to win a pair of free cowboy boots as “fan of the night.” Another wandered into the dirt to assert New York’s drunken dominance over the sport. Even PETA couldn’t fail to ignore the event’s charms.