A background in fundraising and as a police officer stand Tricia Esdaile in good stead as the organiser of the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest rodeo in Mount Isa.

Story By Susan Ewart

Former police officer Tricia Esdaile is sometimes surprised she ended up running Mount Isa’s famous rodeo, the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. The 48-year-old manager of the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo grins when asked how it happened. “I was living in Brisbane and working for the Queensland Cancer Council organising the [charity fundraiser] Relay for Life when my partner Bruce moved to Mount Isa for work,” she says. “I was happy to have a change but I didn’t realise how big it would be. I remember vividly my first time behind the chutes and how nervous I felt, but now after three years I just feel the adrenalin and excitement when, after months of planning, everything is underway.”

Outside in the Isa’s huge floodlit Buchanan Park, excited crowds fill the grandstands for the first afternoon of competition while the sideshow alley competes for attention with the country’s top cowboys and cowgirls in the arena. Tricia fields a continuous flow of phone calls as she grabs a quick cup of tea in the rodeo’s temporary administration headquarters.

According to the Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) Mount Isa’s rodeo boasts more entries and greater prize money than any rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere and competes with Warwick Rodeo for the biggest crowd. But the three days of rodeo events is just one part of Mount Isa’s week-long rodeo festival, and making sure the whole event runs smoothly is a massive logistics exercise. “It’s like putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together with the added challenge of a remote location,” Tricia says. In the lead-up she works from 7am to 9pm, seven days a week. “It’s all-consuming but there is something very special about rodeo, it gets you in. It’s the only sport where you see whole families competing.”

She keenly feels the pressure to deliver an event that gives locals and visitors a reason to return year after year. “It’s like a reunion for all the people connected to rodeo,” Tricia says. “You feel the buzz when the stock starts to unload, Fred Brophy’s boxing tent is going up and there’s so much support from our Rotarians, the sponsors and more than 700 volunteers who come back year after year to help put this event on.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #79

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2011