“Did you see that big pink van on your way into the rodeo grounds tonight?” The voice of announcer Scott Allen boomed throughout the arena as the crowd took their seats. “If you need a mammogram, you walk up there, knock on the door, and get the help you need. You’ll get it free, and you’ll get it right now, no questions asked.”
That’s just the kind of thing that happens on pink nights at the rodeo. Starting with Wrangler’s “Tough Enough To Wear Pink” initiative in 2004, rodeos have been supporting the fight against breast cancer by using one performance each year to raise both funds and awareness, and it has been nothing short of a monumental success. Despite early skepticism, the good people of the rodeo world recognized an opportunity to do good on a large level and jumped into it with both boots. All this wrapped in a big wrapper of bright, bubble-gum pink.
When pink night rolls around, there’s just no getting away from it. Early on, rodeo attendees were encouraged to wear pink, but it’s no longer necessary to prompt anyone to do so. All the rodeo committee has to do is let people know which night is pink night, and they come properly adorned. It’s not just them, though. Competitors, contract personnel, and even sometimes the stock are dressed in pink, reflective of the fact that breast cancer is a plague that has a way of affecting everyone. It’s not just the queens and barrel racers who are in the fight – it’s up to every bull rider, steer wrestler, pickup man, chute boss, and everyone else who needs to take a stand, and on pink night, we do. All of us.
It’s a powerful and emotional thing to look across a rodeo arena and see it awash in a sea of pink shirts, to hear the stories of survivors, and to see committees hand over checks of substantial amounts to local health care agencies who use those funds to help care for underinsured and underserved breast cancer patients, as well as providing awareness to those at risk. One of the most important things about the pink project is that money stays within the local communities, going to hometown hospitals and clinics, so money that goes into these programs is going directly to help friends, family, and neighbors. Snake River Stampede puts on “Stampede For The Cure” to support Saint Alphonsus and Saint Luke’s, and Caldwell Night Rodeo’s “Power Of Pink” supports West Valley Medical Center, with all the other local rodeos supporting healthcare initiatives in their own hometown as well.
If you had told me in 2003 that arenas would be full of people wearing pink to the point that there’s an overwhelming hue to an entire night’s performance, I might have wondered how accurate that could be. Then again, rodeo people are the best kind of people. We take care of those closest to us, are loyal to our hometowns, and fiercely protect the women we love. There may be no cure for breast cancer yet, but as much as lies within us, the cowboys of the rodeo game, we will do our part. All this, and we’re we’re doing it in style. Pink style.