Gypsy the horse was all smiles at the Ogle County Fair on Wednesday, preparing for her show the man known as the “Rhinestone Roper”. His real name is Dan Mink. He and his family travel the country to perform western trick shows for dozens of communities.
“We’re from Idaho,” said Mink. “We started out this year in February, we started out in Arizona, we did shows in Arizona, and Texas and California.”
The “Rhinestone Roper” show is jam-packed with action. Lasso spinning, bullwhip cracking, and knife-throwing all part of the presentation.
“We get audience participation, the kids come up right at the beginning of the show, and six of them learn how to spin a loop,” explained Mink. “And then later in the show, when we have the bullwhips out, we get a couple volunteers to hold bullwhip targets in their hand in their mouth.”
I even got a little taste of the audience participation myself! Mink let me stand against a target as he threw knives around me. He’s is also a champion gun spinner.
“This year I’ve added a trick where I take two six guns, and throw them both from the back over my shoulder and catch them in front.”
Mink knows he makes guns look fun to the kids in the audience. He takes advantage of their focus on him to give them a quick safety lesson.
“I have an opportunity with the guns in my hand, to tell the kids that when they see a gun that they didn’t expect to see, it’s a bad idea to touch it. Because it could be loaded, and they could hurt themselves or someone they love.”
Mink says the best part of all is bringing about a new experience for kids, while bringing back memories of classic western performers for older folks.
“The folks with hair like mine, gray hair, remember Roy Rodgers and Gene Autry and they enjoy the show,” he said. “And these kids who have never seen either of those guys, being excited about the Palomeno trick horse, and the knife throwing and the gun spinning…that’s fantastic.”