Despite the heat, the Wauconda Chamber of Commerce managed to steer thousands of people to its 49th annual International Professional Rodeo Association championship Sunday.
The crowd was rewarded by a menu of events that included bareback riding and steer wrestling, with cowboys and horses kicking up plenty of dust into the air.
The event showcased some top competition, including rodeo champion Shawn Minor, who attended the Wauconda event for the eighth year and rode barebacks and saddle broncs.
"It's a great crowd, great atmosphere. Really good bucking horses," he said. "The stocks are really good."
A perennial champion rodeo performer, Minor, 37, who lives in Camden, Ohio, said he was born on a cattle ranch in Nebraska and raised a cowboy.
"Sometimes it's a fistfight, and sometimes it's kind of poetry in motion," he said, describing his profession. "But it's an adrenaline rush. All of us roughstock riders, we're adrenaline junkies, just like anybody that rides motorcycles or parachutes or (drives) race cars."
Among the competitors was Ray Sikula of Crystal Lake, who not only competed in the steer wrestling competition and served as one of the bullfighters, but also drove a semitruck and set up the portable equipment for the Wauconda rodeo.
He said he started wrestling steers when he was 12 and fighting bulls when he was 17. Steer wrestling involves jumping off the back of the horse, grabbing the steer by the horns, and then grappling with the animal.
"It can be pretty dangerous at times," Sikula said. "But everything is dangerous. Life is dangerous."
The event attracted a packed house Saturday -- about 3,000 people.
"We had only two parking spaces left. We were sold out (Saturday) night. All the stands were filled. It was a record-breaking Saturday night for us," said rodeo co-chair, Rosanne Hansen.
On Sunday, which also drew large crowds, Kelly Peters and Kathryn Cobb of Mundelein were among those enjoying the festivities. Peters said he appreciates the skills of the riders.
"I like watching competitors," Peters said. "I know these guys are really athletes."
Lisa Schank of Lake Villa remembered going to the rodeo when she was younger and decided to share that experience with her 4-year-old twin daughters, Sara and Jessica, and husband Jason. They enjoyed the free petting zoo, but Peters said her favorite event is the barrel racing.
"It's mostly girls, and when I was little I used to want to do that. But I never had a big horse. Just a pony," she said.
The event also attracted a group of animal rights activists along the roadside. The rodeo itself had a group, Friends of Rodeo, that offered literature that supported the rodeo.