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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Brazil may be better known for beach and bossa nova, but travel to the interior and it's rodeo time with fans stomping at the beat of "lady-done-me-wrong" songs and other regional rhythms.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Ten days each August, the small town of Barretos burst with cowboys and cowgirls competing in what's billed as the biggest rodeo in the world accompanied by some of Brazil's biggest country music acts.

NPR's Julie McCarthy checked it out.

JULIE McCARTHY: This is rodeo with, no pun intended, with a kick, mostly to your ears.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Because I love you too much baby, yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: What's up, (unintelligible)?

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Why can't you see?

Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) (Portuguese Spoken)

McCARTHY: Not a single second is dim free. Music, commercials, emcees all cascade to make a solid wall of sound. Even the rodeo's director confides, we couldn't take a look at that next year.

At sunset, the horseshoe-shaped stadium seating 35,000 starts to fill. A broadcast booming from Jupiter-size video screens suspended over the infield pays homage to the legendary architect who designed the arena, the 99-year-old Oscar Niemeyer.

What began in 1956 as a simple show under a circus tent is now a multimillion-dollar-corporate-sponsored spectacle that sprawls across the two-million-square-meter theme park dedicated to the cowboy.

(Soundbite of music)

McCARTHY: Choreographed horses, cantering to the fiddles, open the rodeo. And close it. But you don't see much of them in between. This rodeo is about bulls - bull riding, bull penning, calf wrestling, and if it weren't for the cowgirls, there'd be no horses in competition.

Unidentified Man #4: (Portuguese spoken)

McCARTHY: One at a time, women on horseback race around three barrels. Young beauties with bounding hearts tightly hold the reins as their steeds kick up the red earth. Ana Luiz Lobo took home $2,000 for a third place finish.

You were doing splits in the air as you were kicking your horse. Can you describe what you're feeling up there?

Ms. ANA LUIZ LOBO (Third Place Winner, Rodeo International Festival, Barretos, Brazil): (Through translator) It's almost impossible to describe because there's so much adrenalin that you are almost - it's you and the horse running as one.

(Soundbite of a whistle)

McCARTHY: At the glamour event of bull riding, a bull goes berserk, tossing off his rider like a Raggedy Andy Doll. I asked champion Juarez Terra da Silva, are you ever afraid? The 23-year-old says, sitting on a bull is like sitting on a chair.

Critics of the sport claimed the strap that is put around the bull's flank binds the testicles of the bull to make it mad and buck more. Da Silva says it doesn't hurt them. It just annoys them, he says. Does all the noise in the arena annoy him?

Mr. JUAREZ TERRA DA SILVA (Champion, Rodeo International Festival, Barretos, Brazil): (Portuguese spoken)

McCARTHY: I don't know about anybody else, but when I sit on that bull, I don't hear a sound, he says.

(Soundbite of music)

McCARTHY: By midnight, the vendors are doing a brisk business, hawking leather in every conceivable form - rawhide rugs to $400 pink ostrich boots. Around that time, the rodeo descends into a rave.

(Soundbite of music)

McCARTHY: Pop mixes with original music known as sertanejo inside the arena. The 21-year-old engineering student, Fabio Villella, comes to the jamboree every year.

Mr. FABIO VILLELLA (Engineering Student, Brazil): Sertanejo is the kind of music that most of people like to say that they don't like, but actually they like, they just don't know.

McCARTHY: By the time Brazil's legendary rodeo draws to a close tomorrow, some 800,000 visitors will have passed through the park's doors.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Barretos.

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