The Rawhide Rodeo returns to the Cumberland Fair next week. Courtesy/Elizabeth Tarantino

CUMBERLAND — Sam Swearingen, founder of the Rawhide Rodeo Company, likens the frenzied activity of riding a bucking animal in the ring to what a skydiver might feel when leaping out of a plane. “It’s definitely an adrenaline rush,” he said Tuesday. “When you do it and it’s done good, it’s a great feeling.”

The Rawhide Rodeo – which rides again at the 148th annual Cumberland Fair, after an absence of several years – will take to the Fairgrounds’ revamped Infield Area at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, and Thursday, Sept. 26.

“You have to love it,” Swearingen, of New York, said about the fuel that drives the participants, who perform for prize money and accumulate points to advance to tougher competitions.

“Any of our major events, we try to rotate through,” Liz Tarantino, the fair’s secretary and entertainment director, said in an interview Monday. “Two to three years really seems to be the maximum impact. … Really, just trying to keep the fair fresh and interesting. … It’s making sure that we’re getting our bang for the buck, so to speak.”

“Everybody’s been wonderful up there,” Swearingen said, regarding the rodeo’s absence at the fair and its return. “I hated to leave it, and I understand they want to change entertainment value up, but they were just really good to us, and we really enjoyed it.”


He called the Cumberland Fair “amazing, with the museum, and the things they have that you don’t see anywhere else.”

The rodeo offers a bit of that as well. “It is so popular, and it’s not something people in this area get to see on a regular basis,” said Tarantino.

“It’s family entertainment,” Swearingen said. “We have clowns, and we have specialty acts. It’s something for everybody.”

Rawhide Rodeo has been producing rodeos for over 30 years, according to its website, organizing more than 100 rodeo performances a year internationally.

The rodeo, like anything, has evolved over the years, he said. “Contestant-wise, it’s a little more challenging; you don’t have all the young kids that want to come out and try it like they used to. And I think that’s going through the whole world of sports, right down to football.”

“I used to turn down workers that wanted to learn this, and now I’m trying to find them,” Swearingen said.


However, excitement has been building for the rodeo’s return to Cumberland.

“As the secretary for the club I get the phone calls that come in,” Tarantino said. “And every year I get multiple people calling, asking if we’re having the rodeo.”

Admittance to the rodeo will not be allowed until harness racing has been completed. Entry is available only through the gate near the Exhibition Hall and the end of the Midway area.

The Cumberland Fair is from Sept. 22-29.

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