Archive for June, 2016

postheadericon Harrison returns to Lovington

John Harrison, the 2014 Coors Man in the Can and PRCA Comedy Act of the Year, returns to Claremore for the award-winning Will Rogers Stampede. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN HARRISON)

John Harrison, the 2014 and ’15 and PRCA Comedy Act of the Year, returns to Lea County Fair and Rodeo this year in Lovington, N.M. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN HARRISON)

LOVINGTON, N.M. – The Lea County Fair board is always looking for ways to make its event the best it can be.

It’s been home to a world-class rodeo for a long time, and it’s just getting better for this year’s event, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10-Saturday, Aug. 13, at Jake McClure Arena. That includes the return of decorated rodeo entertainer John Harrison, who also will be part of the Lea County Xtreme Bulls event that begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9.

“Not only his barrelman credentials, but he also has the ability to put on first-class specialty acts,” rodeo chairman Kenyon Burns said, noting that Harrison has twice worked the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “He’s also been able to perform at the NFR as a trick rider, so he’s quite capable of doing a lot of things for our rodeo.

“He looks like a guy that interacts well with the crowd; he knows what he’s doing in the bull riding and and can put that and the specialty acts all together. That’s when I went to the rodeo committee and said, ‘I don’t think we need to have another specialty act; we have the best in the business coming in as our specialty act and our barrelman.”

Both aspects of Harrison’s persona are something he enjoys, and he takes great pride in having served as the NFR barrelman in 2013 and ’15.

“It’s an awesome feeling for me and my family because it’s a position that’s voted on by your peers,” said Harrison of Soper, Okla. “You feel it’s something you deserve. I’m tickled to death I got it. As a trick rider, I got to perform at the NFR three other times, but to be there every night and be part of the NFR personnel was just amazing.”

Over the last two years was recognized as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Comedy Act of the Year. In addition to hysterical acts that showcase Harrison’s talent and athleticism, the Oklahoma man serves as a valuable piece of the puzzle that helps make for a near-flawless performance each time he speaks.

“John is good, clean family fun,” said John Gwatney, the production supervisor for Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, the primary livestock producer for the rodeo. “It’s his rodeo background, because he grew up in this sport. For us, he helps us with the timing of our production. When you know what needs to be done and have someone that doesn’t have a big ego, then he’s willing to do work and willing to do that for the production.”

That’s the key reaching fans with a variety of entertaining items. Whether it’s a trick riding display that will leave fans in awe or his parody of rodeo queens, Harrison has a lot of ammunition in his bag.

“I do this for the love of the sport,” said Harrison, the grandson Freckles Brown, the 1962 world champion bull rider. “Growing up with it, you enjoy it. Now I can actually make a living at it, so that helps.”

It also is attractive for rodeo fans in southeastern New Mexico. Harrison returns to Lovington after having been part of the festivities in 2013.

“I looked up John’s credentials, and the first thing I see is he is the grandson of Freckles Brown,” Burns said. “I’m automatically in awe of the guy, and I’m sold on him for sure.”

While family is a big part of who Harrison is, he realizes that rodeo serves as a foster family of sorts.

“The friends and the ‘family’ you meet on the road is a big deal for us,” he said. “Plus if it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it.”

postheadericon Bullfighters Only athletes Stampeding into legendary rodeo

CODY, Wyo. – Before Dusty Tuckness embarked on a bullfighting career, he was a boy growing up in Meeteetse, Wyo., hoping to be one of the best ever.

His dreams are coming true.

Dusty Tuckness

Dusty Tuckness

Tuckness will share his passion and showcase his incredible talents throughout the Cody Stampede, just as he has done every year since 2007. He will step it up even more Thursday during the Bullfighters Only freestyle bullfight that runs in conjunction with the Cody/Yellowstone Xtreme Bulls. The action-packed evening will begin at 8 p.m. MST.

“It’s awesome to be able to work that rodeo but also the fact that we’re bringing freestyle bullfighting back to Cody,” said Tuckness, the reigning six-time Bullfighter of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “Having Bullfighters Only involved and having the best bullfighters in the world there just makes it even better.

“It’s one of the best rodeos all year long.”

Tuckness will be one of five men that are part of the competition. They will be matched against speedy, agile and aggressive fighting bulls that have been bred specifically for this type of competition.

“I worked that rodeo last year for the first time,” said Cody Webster of Wayne, Okla., who won the BFO’s first stand-alone freestyle bullfight Sunday night near Austin, Texas. “The Cody Stampede is something else. It has packed crowds, and it’s wild.

“Now we get to have an awesome bullfight to go with it.”

Cody Webster

Cody Webster

Bullfighters Only is still in its infancy. In fact, the organization just celebrated its first year in existence, and, oh, how that toddler has grown in such a short amount of time.

The tour was established, and the Cody Stampede will be the 15th of more than 30 stops through the regular season. Freestyle bullfighting is not new to rodeo, and the Bullfighters Only has created public demand for the sport. The events feature man vs. beast in a head-to-head battle inside an arena. The bullfighters utilize their tremendous athleticism to try to outwit and outmaneuver equally athletic bulls.

“I’ve had one of my stand-alone freestyle bullfights there before, and they really liked and enjoyed it,” Tuckness said. “Now we’re stepping it up a notch with Bullfighters Only. We’re bringing in (Darrell Diefenbach’s) 12X Fighting Bulls. It’s going to be the best freestyle athletes going.”

That makes for quite a show.

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

The growth of the BFO has been phenomenal. It features the top 15 in the sport and has reached more than 50 million people through its Facebook page with more than 12 million video views. It’s Instagram page has more than 51,000 engaged followers. Bullfighters Only paid out more than $140,000 to the contestants that play the game.

The buzz has continued to build. That’s why many of the most prestigious events in ProRodeo are on the BFO tour schedule. Events with that much history stand as proof to the incredible showcase that is out there for the Bullfighters Only athletes.

“We’re trying to grow the sport and bring it back to the main stage,” Tuckness said. “We’ve got a great group of guys and great support. The fan base is growing.

“There’s just so much excitement to freestyle bullfighting. It’s an event that hasn’t had a true world champion since 2000. Bullfighters Only is bringing that back while also keeping an eye out for the young talent. We want the best of the best. The main stage is where it belongs. The energy and the level of excitement is second to none.”


Dusty Tuckness, Meeteetse, Wyo.
Nate Jestes, Douglas, Wyo.
Cody Webster, Wayne, Okla.
Weston Rutkowski, Haskell, Texas
Chuck Swisher, Dover, Okla.

postheadericon Rooftop Rodeo will honor its 90th anniversary

ESTES PARK, Colo. – One of the most picturesque events in ProRodeo is on the horizon, and it has reason to celebrate.

The 90th edition of the Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 6-Monday, July 11, at Granny May Arena in Estes Park.

RooftopRodeoLogoEstes Park is beautiful and vibrant, just like the Rocky Mountains that surround it. It’s as if nature made the perfect backdrop for the town of more than 6,000 year-round residents that draws more than 4 million visitors each summer.

“Estes Park is absolutely beautiful in July,” said Ben Vigil, president of Estes Park Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo. “We have so much to offer our visitors throughout the year, but it gets especially nice in the summertime.

“At the Rooftop Rodeo, we’re glad to be part of an Estes Park summer, just as we have been for the last 90 years.”

Of course, it’s not just another rodeo; it’s an award-winning rodeo. After being named the PRCA’s Small Rodeo of the Year five times, Rooftop Rodeo upped its prize money. By doing so, it moved into the medium rodeo category.

By not standing on its past accomplishments, the rodeo has been nominated for Medium Rodeo of the Year every year since.

“Every year we work hard to improve in every aspect of our rodeo,” said Mark Purdy, chairman of the Estes Park Western Heritage. “We would love to be the Medium Rodeo of the Year, but when we moved up a level, we also saw how many good rodeos there were in that category.”

The contestants realize that. In fact, this year’s rodeo features a record number of entrants with nearly 800 cowboys and cowgirls who have put their hat into the ring to battle for the honor of winning the Estes Park title.

“Even though winning that title would be a feather in our cap,” Purdy said, “our main purpose is to put on the best rodeo for the contestants, then allow them to put on the best show for our fans.”

That makes the Rooftop Rodeo a win-win situation for all involved.

postheadericon Volunteers make PBR event happen

GUYMON, Okla. – Community events don’t happen without dedicated volunteers.

That philosophy is in full force with the Kasey Hayes & Stormy Wing Invitational PBR BlueDEF Velocity Tour, set for 8 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena in Guymon.

“I enjoy doing it,” said Nina Webb, one of the primary volunteers for the event and also a member of the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo committee, which produces the rodeo each May. “It is hard work, but it’s always rewarding. People are so appreciative.”

BlueDefTour-LOGOThey are also supportive. This marks the third straight year the Professional Bull Riders event has taken place in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and the crowds have been phenomenal every July. Organizers are hoping fans will get an even better experience this year.

“Our first year when it was a Touring Pro, we had a great crowd,” Webb said. “Last year we had standing-room only. It was great.”

The premise of events like this are simple: Produce something that members of the community appreciate, enjoy and talk about. That’s why it takes a series of volunteers to handle all the duties that go into making each event a success.

“I would say 95 percent of what we get comes from the volunteers,” she said. “We also have some great sponsors who really help us. There are expenses that come from putting on a PBR BlueDEF Tour event, and we appreciate the sponsors very much.

“I am the sponsorship chairman, so I know how important sponsors are to this event. No matter the level, we know that we have some great people out there that support the PBR event in Guymon.”

It combines with a terrific workforce of people willing to donate their time and talents to support what Texas County has to offer. Made up of many farming and ranching families, the region once known as “No Man’s Land” is home to hard-working, gritty people.

They also know the Western way of life and enjoy having a world-class bull riding event in their area each summer.

“We have a lot of PBR fans in our area, people that really love bull riding,” Webb said. “Most of those people aren’t going to be able to drive six to 10 hours to see a PBR or to fly to a bull riding, but there are a lot of people that watch the PBR.”

“I’m thankful we can have one here that they can come to and enjoy an evening with their family.”

Advance tickets are $15, which provide a nice discount from the $20 gate admission. Children ages 5 and younger are admitted free.

“Last year we had 18 of the top 35 cowboys that are always on the Built Ford Tough Series events,” Webb said of the PBR’s premier tour. “I think that says a lot about what kind of bull riding we put on here.”

It also says a lot about the people that make it happen.

postheadericon Webster wins Cavender’s Cup

Cody Webster matches moves with his fighting bull for 88.5 points to win the inaugural Bullfighters Only Cavender's Cup in Cedar Park, Texas. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Cody Webster matches moves with his fighting bull for 88.5 points to win the inaugural Bullfighters Only Cavender’s Cup in Cedar Park, Texas. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

CEDAR PARK, Texas – Cody Webster looks at Sunday’s Bullfighters Only Cavender’s Cup victory a little different than most champions.

“I fought two bulls, won almost $12,000 and got to hang out with my best friends,” said Webster of Wayne, Okla. “It was our first stand-alone Bullfighters Only event, so to win it is killer. This is a group of guys that are not only my best friends, but we’ve stuck together to make this work. We’re doing what we love and trying to make something of the BFO.”

Cody Webster

Cody Webster

The Cavender’s Cup featured the top 15 bullfighters in the game all competing in a major league freestyle bullfight. Matched against aggressive and athletic bulls that have been bred for this type of fight, the men were able to showcase their abilities to the fullest.

Webster just happened to be the king of the mountain inside the HEB Center at Cedar Park. By winning his preliminary go-round, he advanced to the short round, where he and his bull danced across the arena dirt for 88.5 points. That score was matched by Weston Rutkowski of Haskell, Texas; Webster claimed the title by winning the tie-breaker, which referred to the highest bullfighter score.

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

“My long-round bull was a bull I had out in Salinas, Calif., a few years ago,” said Webster, who pocketed $11,750 for the victory. “We got a long good, and I got the win in my round.”

The event featured five three-man rounds, with the round-winners advancing to the championship. Scores from the preliminary rounds were then thrown out, and the top scores earned the lion’s share of the prize pool. The bullfighters were also matched with animals that had not been in a bullfighting arena before.

“I like that concept,” Webster said. “It comes down to the bullfighters score because the bulls should be pretty evenly matched.

“To even get to be part of this bullfight is great. It’s the best guys in the business. To come in and win the event, that’s something that’s very special. It was a good event and a really good bullfight.”

The earnings will push Webster into the top three in the Bullfighters Only world standings.

“The funny thing about that is our summer run of rodeos is just kicking off,” he said, adding that the Cedar Park event was the 14th of more than 30 stops on the tour. “We’ve got another bullfight in just a few days, and I’m going to nod my head on another set of fighting bulls. That’s what’s fun. Everybody wants to win, but we also cheer each other on.”

That camaraderie is the backbone of Bullfighters Only, and it’s what makes the competition so much fun for the combatants and fans alike.

“I want Bullfighters Only to be part of every major event,” Webster said. “Freestyle bullfighting is what put me on the map, and we have a bunch of young bullfighters who have a lot of talent. I want us to get to where we provide an avenue for those young guys.”

Webster is just 24 years old, but he’s a veteran. He proved Sunday that the streets leading to Bullfighters Only’s future are heading in the right direction.

Round 1: Cody Greer, 84 points
Round 2: Tanner Zarntski, 86
Round 3: Cody Webster, 85.5
Round 4: Justin Josey, 84.5
Round 5: Weston Rutkowski, 89.5
Championship round: Cody Webster, 88.5

postheadericon Rooftop Rodeo already breaking records

Champs, NFR qualifiers among nearly 800 contestants planning for Estes Park

ESTES PARK, Colo. – This town of about 6,000 people is home to around 4 million summertime visitors who take in the exceptional hospitality and beautiful landscape that is Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s about to get a little bigger with the 90th edition of the Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 6-Monday, July 11, at Granny May Arena in Estes Park. Nearly 800 contestants have signed up to compete during this year’s event.

Chet Johnson, a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Douglas, Wyo., rides during the 2015 Rooftop Rodeo in Estes Park, Colo. A record number of entrants are hoping to compete at this year's Rooftop Rodeo. (MARSHA HOBERT PHOTO)

Chet Johnson, a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Douglas, Wyo., rides during the 2015 Rooftop Rodeo in Estes Park, Colo. A record number of entrants are hoping to compete at this year’s Rooftop Rodeo. (MARSHA HOBERT PHOTO)

“In visiting from our stock contractor, Binion Cervi, we have 786 contestants that have entered our rodeo,” said Mark Purdy, chairman of Estes Park Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo. “There is still an opportunity for re-entries, so there’s a great chance that we will have more than 800 entries for our rodeo this year.”

The 2015 Rooftop Rodeo featured a then-record 724 entries, so the increase means good things for the community and for the rodeo in general.

“We have a pretty significant committee purse of more than $61,000 in all our events combined,” said Ben Vigil, president of Estes Park Western Heritage. “When you add all those contestants entry fees into the mix, it makes our overall purse phenomenal.”

The prospective contestant list will feature more than 90 athletes that have all qualified for the National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s year-end championship that takes place each December in Las Vegas.

Among those are 15 world championships that dozens gold buckles combined, like four-time barrel racing titlist Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz. Not only does she own 18 NFR qualifications, but also she has earned more than $3 million in her career.

“It’s great for us to see so many of rodeo’s best who want to be in Estes Park for our rodeo,” Vigil said. “We want to provide them with the best hospitality possible and let them know we are here for them.

“Our goals are to put on a great competition for the cowboys and cowgirls and to put on great performances for fans. We want to entertain them and let them enjoy their Estes Park experience that much more.”

That’s why Rooftop Rodeo has been recognized as one of the top 20 events in ProRodeo. It has been named Small Rodeo of the Year five times; since 2011, it has been listed among the top five medium rodeos in the country.

A key reason for that involves a tireless work ethic among members of the community that donate their time for the event. It takes hundreds of man-hours every year to make the week of festivities as successful as they have been over the years.

“We are very proud of the history of our rodeo,” Purdy said. “This is our 90th year, and to have a record number of contestants enter our rodeo is just going to add to our celebration.

“We have an amazing group of people that work very diligently to make our rodeo the best it can be. I’m very proud to be associated with all of them.”

postheadericon Going after the cup

Top 15 bullfighters will battle for the title at the inaugural Cavender’s Cup

CEDAR PARK, Texas – For decades, freestyle bullfighting has been an undercard event.

Bullfighters Only is making it the main event.

That’s the primary focus of the Cavender’s Cup, set for 5 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the HEB Center at Cedar Park. It will be a true showcase, and the top bullfighters in the game will make sure of that.

Nathan Harp

Nathan Harp

“The first Bullfighters Only event we had was a stand-alone freestyle bullfight in Las Vegas, and we made a statement,” said Nathan Harp, 26, of Tuttle, Okla. “This is going to be the richest one-day bullfight that I know about. We keep pushing the envelope, keep breaking new boundaries and seeing how far we can go from there.”

The Cavender’s Cup will feature the top 15 in a series of man-vs.-beast bouts, whereby the bullfighters use their athleticism to try to outwit and outmaneuver equally athletic bulls, which were bred specifically for this kind of fight.

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

“To me, we’ve got the best 15 guys wrapped up in Bullfighters Only,” said Ross Hill, 32, of Muscle Schoals, Ala. “Being the top 15 guys and sticking together to see this thing through is pretty cool.”

Imagine standing face to face with a 1,300-pound bull that possesses great speed, quick feet and intimidating horns. That’s exactly what freestyle bullfighters see any time they are in the ring, and that’s what makes it exciting.

Ross Hill

Ross Hill

“The really cool thing about freestyle bullfighting is that it’s just really simple to understand,” Hill said. “It’s a game of cat and mouse, except the mouse weights a lot more than 20 pounds and can flat run over you. It’s easy to follow, and it’s a little more self-explanatory than some extreme events.

“It’s man vs. beast. We’re the last of the gladiators. There aren’t a whole lot of sports out there where you can show your skill around a bull.”

It’s exciting to watch and entices spectators into the middle of the action, which is fast and furious and features true athleticism by men and bovines. Possibly the rankest bull in the game, Hookin’ A Ranch’s Spaniard, will be part of the mix. Chuck Swisher of Dover, Okla., was 89 points to win in Little Rock, Ark., earlier this year; he also is the only bullfighter not to be hooked by Spaniard.

“You’re either going to see something really cool, or you’re going to see a really cool hooking,” Harp said. “Either way, it’s going to be really awesome.”

That’s exactly what fans are looking for in Cedar Park, a community of more than 61,000 people on the north edge of Austin, Texas. The Cavender’s Cup will be an exciting conclusion to a three-day Western sports experience, the perfect headliner to two days of bull riding.

The event will be broken down into five three-man rounds. The top finisher from each round will advance to the championship round. From there, the bullfighter with the best score will be crowned champion.

“I really think this is going to be just the first of many stand-alone bullfights we do in the BFO,” Harp said. “This is an opportunity that we can do more, that we can have a full show of freestyle bullfighting. There is a market for stand-alone bullfights, and I really think there are a lot of people that love to watch freestyle bullfighting.

“Bullfighters Only is a great opportunity to do what we love. It’s more important for us to take freestyle bullfighting to another level, one that nobody in my generation has ever seen. I wouldn’t be at my level in my career without freestyle bullfighting.”

The Cavender’s Cup is the 14th stop on a tour of more than 30 events. At the conclusion of the season, the first Bullfighters Only world champion will be crowned.

“I want it, and I want it bad,” said Hill, an established veteran in the game. “I want to show my friends that I have as much confidence in myself as they do in me.”

Confidence is vital in bullfighting. Going head-to-head against a living, breathing, stomping bovine is no place for anyone who lacks it.

“What’s really cool about the BFO is that everybody has a chance to win the world this year,” Harp said. “It’s brought all the top dogs to one spot and let them fight it out.”

The next step toward that world title is in Cedar Park.


postheadericon Rutkowski takes Reno title

RENO, Nev. – A quick, little black bull tried to get the best of Weston Rutkowski, but the Haskell, Texas, bullfighter didn’t let it happen.

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

In fact, was a winning combination for Rutkowski, who scored 88 points Wednesday night to win the Bullfighters Only event that took place in conjunction with the Reno Rodeo.

“I’ve dreamed about coming to these rodeos since I was a kid,” said Rutkowski, 27, of Haskell, Texas. “To come and compete is great, but to come here and win is something that I could only dream about. The fact that the BFO got to come here and be in the Reno Rodeo means a lot to us as bullfighters.”

Rutkowski’s distanced himself from his fellow bullfighters with a strong performance against an equally strong bull. In fact, all three bulls in Wednesday’s championship round were brothers to the great fighting bull Spaniard, which has been recognized as the best in freestyle bullfighting.

Nate Jestes

Nate Jestes

“I had a great bull, and that helped a lot,” said Rutkowski, who posted an 85-point score to win Sunday’s first round. “These bulls were all brothers, so they were a lot alike.”

Rutkowski’s bull worked a little better for his style, and the score proved it. Nate Jestes of Douglas, Wyo., who won the second round, finished second with 85 points; Round 3 winner Chuck Swisher of Dover, Okla., was 82 for third.

“The main difference between Nate’s fight and my fight was that his bull didn’t give him a chance to get his distance,” Rutkowski said. “When Nate was throwing his fake, his bull wouldn’t go all the way through. Maybe it was a little bit smarter. It’s hard to get your distance, and it’s hard to do with this bloodline.”

Chuck Swisher

Chuck Swisher

That wasn’t the case with his bull.

“I knew these bulls were going to fight because of their bloodlines, but I wasn’t sure because they had never been out in a freestyle match,” he said. “You can’t play too much into it; you just need to read the animals and make your moves accordingly. That’s what freestyle bullfighting is about.

In all, Rutkowski pocketed more than $3,000 in Reno and moved into the top five of the Bullfighters Only standings. Jestes is still the No. 1 man in the BFO.

“It means everything for us as Bullfighters Only to be part of the Reno Rodeo,” Rutkowski said. “For me to come to this event the first year of a BFO event, then win it, is great. It’s just so exciting, and it’s the first stepping stone.

“In a few days, we’ll all be fighting at our first big-time, stand-alone Bullfighters Only event, the Cavender’s Cup down by Austin (Texas). These are exciting times to be a freestyle bullfighter.”

It’s just beginning.

postheadericon Brazilians making a mark in the PBR

GUYMON, Okla. – Two decades ago, Brazilian bull riding champion Adriano Moraes moved to the United States to test his skills against the best in the business.

He was an explorer, of sorts, and became the first of his countrymen to excel worldwide; he did so rapidly. He was the first Professional Bull Riders world champion ever crowned in 1994 – he added two more titles in 2001 and ’06.

Adriano Moraes

Adriano Moraes

He led the way for an influx of Brazilian talent into the PBR. Over the years, he has been joined by other Brazilian world champions: Ednei Caminhas in 2002, Guilherme Marchi in 2008, Renato Nunes in 2010 and Silvano Alves in 2011, ’12 and ’14.

There’s reason to believe there will be a strong Brazilian contingent heading to the Oklahoma Panhandle for the Kasey Hayes & Stormy Wing Invitational PBR BlueDEF Velocity Tour event, set for 8 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena in Guymon.

Now in its third year, Hayes is the defending champion. His runner-up from a year ago, Kaique Pacheco, stands as the No. 1 man in the PBR world standings. That not only says a lot for the talent that is expected to be in Texas County in July, but also for the type of event that takes place each summer.

The BlueDEF Velocity Tour is a minor league system in the PBR, but it also features the top bull riders in the game. While the championship race is decided on a points system, dollars earned at every level of the PBR help identify qualifiers for the PBR’s premier tour, the Built Ford Tough Series, and the world finals, which takes place in November in Las Vegas.

In the Guymon event’s inaugural run, Brazilian Fabiano Vieira claimed the championship, then went to the finals No. 2 in the standings. He earned $7,367 inside Hitch Arena.

Fabiano is a phenomenal bull rider, and he did what he does,” said Hayes, a six-time PBR World Finals qualifier from Liberal, Kan. “He’s a machine. He rides the bulls he gets on, and he wins.”

Last year, Hayes pocketed $9,725, which helped him earn his eighth qualification to the finale.

Derek Kolbaba of Walla Walla, Wash., leads the BlueDEF standings with more than $33,000 in earnings. The next five cowboys are all from Brazile: Paulo Lima, Marco Eguchi, Emilio Resende, Juliano Antonio Da Silva and Lindomar Lino.

“I think what we’ve got something good to offer the contestants, and it’s one I’d want to go to,” said Wing, a PBR World Finals qualifier from Dalhart, Texas. “With Kasey and I both being bull riders and living close to Guymon, I think it should be good.”

postheadericon Rumford ready for Rooftop

Four-time Clown of the Year Justin Rumford launches himself over a couple of willing participants during his act at a recent rodeo. Rumford will be featured at the Rooftop Rodeo, which begins in two weeks. (FRAN RUCHALSKI PHOTO)

Four-time Clown of the Year Justin Rumford launches himself over a couple of willing participants during his act at a recent rodeo. Rumford will be featured at the Rooftop Rodeo, which begins in two weeks. (FRAN RUCHALSKI PHOTO)

Decorated clown, entertainer returns to Estes Park rodeo for its 90th anniversary

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Justin Rumford has always made people laugh.

It’s his naturally gregarious nature, a personality developed from a life on the rodeo trail. He’s a third-generation cowboy who has done just about everything there can be done in the sport he loves.

Rumford was raised in a south Kansas rodeo family and has served as a truck driver, a pickup man, a bullfighter and a contestant, just to name a few. He spent his young adult life trying to find his perfect fit in the rodeo industry.

He found it about five years ago when he combined his rodeo experience with his personality and became the preeminent clowns in ProRodeo. In fact, he’s been named the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year each of the past four seasons and is a two-time Coors Man in the Can.

He will have it all with him to the 90th edition of the Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 6-Monday, July 11, at Granny May Arena in Estes Park. Rumford will be the rodeo’s clown and featured act for the six-night rodeo.

“We have had Justin and his family at Rooftop Rodeo before, and we’re very excited to have him back this year,” said Mark Purdy, chairman of Estes Park Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo.

“The members of the PRCA have voted him as the best clown in rodeo, and we know he’s going to be a hit with everyone that comes to our rodeo.”

Comedy is at the forefront of Rumford’s repertoire, and he adds a distinct flavor to each rodeo performance. Having a lifelong history in the game also plays to his strengths.

“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had,” said Rumford, who lives Ponca City, Okla., with his wife, Ashley, and their 2-year-old triplets, Livi, Lola and Bandy. “It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not just a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”

He’s had great success in just a short time as a rodeo clown, but his biggest reward is doing something he loves. Still, he doubled-up in two major awards this last year, being named the Clown of the Year for the fourth straight time and the Coors Man in the Can for the second time in three years – the latter award is named for the best barrelman in the sport.

“I’ve been involved in rodeo my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never done anything else, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be successful. A (few) years ago when I started this venture, I knew if I worked really hard and tried really hard that I could get to the top in a hurry.”

He’s made it, and now he’s bringing his show back to Estes Park.

“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” Rumford said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning.

“It’s just me being me.”

That’s pretty good.

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