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Frank Bogert Memorial Rodeo.

So said my boyfriend, surprisingly often, who had never actually been to a rodeo until last Christmas, when I gave him the gift of, well, truth — two tickets to the Frank Bogert Memorial Rodeo in Palm Springs, CA.

We left a rainy Los Angeles in the late morning on Saturday, March 26 and checked in to the Royal Sun Inn on a brilliantly sunny afternoon in Palm Springs. A celebratory toast in the room, then off to the stomping grounds.

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WestFest and its beautiful backdrop.

WestFest, the cowboy themed festival surrounding the rodeo, is well worth attending, rodeo or not. Hundreds of vendors set up their wares, from elk jerky to bronze horses, on the large grounds adjacent to the Spa Resort Casino. We soon spotted a mechanical bull, and I proved to myself (again) that I’m a reluctant and secretly proud natural at the sport, and also guaranteed that I would walk funny for the next three days.

Later in our wanderings, we happened across the fine folks behind Tucalota Creek Ranch Cellars, unleashing their first line of really likable vintages this spring. The company was as enjoyable as the wine — we stayed put in our stools way too long, just chatting with the owners.

The rodeo itself included my favorites — barrel racing, calf roping, and good old fashioned bull riding. This is not the kindest to animals, I know. I know! But it’s as American as apple pie, and I think even apple pie would give it a nod of respect.

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The “yes this is his first” rodeo!

Breathtaking as the scenery was — and boy was it — once the sun disappeared behind the mountains the temperature dropped fast. We were cold and hungry, but warm inside.

Unfamiliar with the area, we pulled into the first restaurant that screamed out at us, though not exactly a “howdy.” More like an “‘ello!”

The staff of the Lyons English Grille ushered us through their heavy wooden doors, between a pair of lion sculpture guards, then whisked us into an intimate crescent-shaped booth with leather upholstery and dropped warm paté and popovers, still breathing steam, under our noses. Our choice of house wines arrived quickly (and inexpensively) after. It seemed as though they’d done this before. For years, in fact. Since 1938.

Lyons English Grille is Tudor throughout, with armor, crests, portraiture, and stained glass adorning the dark wood walls. My boyfriend and I were among the younger couples and smaller groups dining there — most of the other diners were foursomes of retirees and tourist families, all really seeming to enjoy themselves.

We shared a heaping portion of a fish and chips special, with seven pieces of beautifully fried white fish and flavorful tartar and cocktail sauces. We also had an order of the homemade kreplack, six large fried wontons stuffed with seasoned beef, served with Chinese hot mustard. Our entree came with a side dish, and we chose their tomato bisque, which came out first and nearly stole the show.

The highlight of the evening was a tableside performance of sleight of hand by a very experienced and jovial magician, a charter member of the Magic Castle. We felt utterly transported to a better time and place.

Given that any old restaurant would do after the rodeo, we got so much more than we asked for.

We ended the night back at the Spa Resort Casino. They kept their $5 roulette and black jack buy-ins through the night, which made this little cowgirl, and her cowboy, very happy. And they rode off into the sunset — with about $10 more than they started out with.

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Cowgirl. Cowboy.

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