Basic cadets get rowdy during Air Force Academy/Family Day at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo July 17, 2010. The rodeo was basic cadets' first chance to relax and enjoy ice cream, nachos and corn dogs since they began Basic Cadet Training June 24. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)
Lonny Graham, from Ault, Colo., struggles to hold onto Really Red during the bullriding competition at hte Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 17, 2010. Fifteen bullriders took part in the event. Proceeds from the rodeo benefit military installations in the Colorado Springs area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)
Basic cadets line up for "real food" during Air Force Academy/Family Day at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 17, 2010. The rodeo was the first chance for the basics, who have been in training since June 24, to enjoy some down time. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)
7/19/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and the Air Force Academy Class of 2014 are on opposite ends of the age spectrum.
In the working world, the 70-year-old rodeo would be a few years past retirement age. Nevertheless, the fresh-faced doolies and the wizened old Westerners made for an ideal pairing Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Event Center as the rodeo celebrated Air Force Academy/Family Day.
With the end of Basic Cadet Training in sight for the cadets, the bronc-bustin' action offered a welcome respite. Basics walked around wearing hydration packs and plain red caps, grateful for the chance to socialize in a leisurely atmosphere.
"I'm looking forward to the end of basic," said Basic Cadet Angela Silverbush of Shingle Springs, Calif., near Sacramento. "I got used to all the yelling and screaming. I'm really glad they let us go here. It's such a nice day to be outside."
For Cadet Silverbush, who is thinking about studying human behavioral science at the Academy, the best thing about the rodeo was not in the pens or on the arena floor but at the concession stands.
"I haven't had ice cream in so long," she said. "I can't believe I've never been to a rodeo. I'm a country girl, so I think I'll definitely go to one again."
Her rave reviews about the food echoed a common refrain at the arena Saturday. One cadet proudly exclaimed "Real food!" as he held his tray of nachos aloft to show his prize to a group of friends.
Maj. Brian Wilkerson, the air officer commanding for Cadet Squadron 30, said the cadets' rations during basic, though, have been nothing to complain about. But he understood their exuberance over the chance to savor turkey legs, barbecue fare, candy, ice cream, lemonade and other rodeo grub.
As one of the few non-newbies at the rodeo, Major Wilkerson was responsible for "keepin' the herd." He also reminded cadets to be on their best behavior.
"Accountability is the main thing," he said. "They're here representing the Academy and to have fun."
Major Wilkerson, a native of Anderson, Ind., said he'd previously attended one other rodeo, Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo., and he considers himself a casual rodeo fan. He's always been impressed with riders' skill and moxie.
"Any time they come out of the chute, what they put their body through, it's just so amazing that a human can do that," he said. "Those are athletes."
Like Major Wilkerson, Basic Cadet Elizabeth Pacyna, of Bristol, Conn., also marveled at what she saw. She said she planned to walk around the arena and try to soak up as much as she could.
"I've never seen people who are so into horses and so into showing off," she said.
Basic Cadet Chris Miller, on the other hand, was not about to let a few hours of relaxation slip away. The Coppers Cove, Texas, native's terse assessment of the rodeo: "It's pretty tight." For him, the chance to take it easy put him in a good mood; the event itself was more of nice diversion.
Despite the cadets' varying level of interest in the action, the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo was glad to have them there. Col. Tamra Rank, vice superintendent of the Academy, delivered the opening remarks, and an honor guard from Fort Carson presented the colors.
The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo has nurtured ties with local military installations dating back to the Truman administration. The logo for this year's run is inscribed with the words, "Supporting Local Military Charities Since 1946."