Bull Rides at Buffalo Chip Saloon
Scampering to the corral post and grasping it for dear life, there he was. Pint-sized and wearing a bicycle helmet, this bull-riding neophyte seemed to be all of ten years old.
He’d just been thrown by a white bull after a very short ride. Running to the perimeter seemed like a very smart idea and likely a move he was schooled to take. So dramatic! And also so curious to someone who remembers the headlines of lawsuits resulting just when someone finds something in their restaurant soup that doesn’t belong there.
Bull riders come in all shapes and forms, apparently, at Buffalo Chip Saloon in Cave Creek, Arizona, not far from the luxury Boulders Resort and Spa. We weren’t there on one of the nights when only the top pros hop the bulls, which regulars told us was something to behold. For this writer, it’s hard to imagine that those bona fide cowboys would infuse the arena with comparable excitement of watching these presumed first-timers.
While Scottsdale as a whole has many corners with aromas of Wild West pentimento, Buffalo Chip Saloon seems to be the tourist spot that is branding as such. You step into an imagined older time with modernity nonetheless popping up in every vista.
Arrive in the parking lot and get greeted by big burly bouncers full of tattoos and piercings and not dissimilar to those you see on their equivalents in the hip rock scene bars of Chicago’s Wicker Park.
Next you are choosing between a buffet or an inside restaurant. Either way, this is chow by any standards. We are tasting cowboy fare and realizing it was totally missable.
Grab a drink—reasonable prices—and get poised in the bleachers for the show. The handlers begin to bring the bulls in the warm-up pens. The crowd filters in—regulars sporting cowboy attire or gym clothes and tourists of all sizes and shapes.
There are private parties going on. The rodeo of sorts has an announcer getting folksy folksy and folksier still.
How wonderful to be seeing this scene under a full moon!
Then, go into the saloon and drink some more, watching swing dancers take to the dance floor. Some seem to be regulars. Many are quite good and know they are.
Who knew? This very bar is a favorite haunt of cheesehead Packer fans! The country music band leader confesses he’s from a Chicago suburb. We share a long table with people from Chicago, D.C., Iowa, India and Texas.
We cling to a Hollywood-honed cowboy fantasy with the same spirit as the young bull riders who started the evening off.
For more information visit the Buffalo Chip Saloon website.
Performance times vary.
Sundays through Thursdays – 10:00 a.m. to Midnight
Fridays and Saturdays – 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Buffalo Chip Saloon
6811 East Cave Creek Road
Cave Creek, Arizona
Watching the bull riders is free and open to all.
Photos: Peter Kachergis