Archive for October, 2016

postheadericon Bullfighters honored to work finale

DUNCAN, Okla. – The measurement of greatness, oftentimes, is based on recognition.

For those who will be part of the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, it is identified from work performed over a long season. It culminates in a three-round championship that takes place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20-Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

While the contestants qualified through the rigors of competition, Weston Rutkowski and Nathan Harp earned their spots in Duncan through hard work and that recognition of the top bull riders in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region. They will be the bullfighters, assigned to the task of protecting cowboys during the three-night finale.

“It was a shock when I got the call that I was going to work it,” said Rutkowski, 27, of Haskell, Texas. “A guy measures his talent in the arena, so you want to be selected to any finals. It’s recognition that hard work is finally paying off for me. It’s especially a privilege to work the Prairie Circuit Finals, which is well known for having great bullfighters work it every year.”

This year marks the first time he has been selected to fight bulls at a ProRodeo finale, and he’ll be working alongside Harp, now selected to work the Duncan championship for the third time in four years.

Nathan Harp

Nathan Harp

“It’s a blessing to be picked by the bull riders to come back and work it,” said Harp, 26, of Tuttle, Okla. “I’m truly amazed, because Oklahoma is a hotbed for great bullfighters, from Cody Webster to Chuck Swisher to Evan Allard; the list goes on and on.”

Harp and Rutkowski will utilize their athletic ability to help keep everyone in the arena safe during bull riding. They are the cowboy lifesavers, and they take their posts seriously.

“The key to my job is making sure everybody walks out safely: the bull rider, the bull and me at the very end of it,” Rutkowski said. “As long as the bull rider can walk away and go to the next rodeo. If somebody’s got to take the shot, then that’s why we’re hired to be there.”

Ideally the bullfighters will use their voices and their bodies to distract bulls from fallen cowboys, then finesse themselves out of harm’s way and allow the bulls to leave the arena without anyone being hooked or stepped on in the process. Sometimes, though, they throw their bodies into the fray to make sure the bull riders are as safe as possible.

“If a guy’s under the bull, I’ve got to step in there and pull the bull away,” Harp said. “Weston and I have worked RodeoAustin (in Texas) together the last couple of years, and we have the same philosophy. I don’t have to wonder where he’s going to be. We just go out and fight bulls, and we click together doing it.”

That says a lot for the men who make a living look into the eyes of danger on a daily basis and live to tell about it.

“It’s always fun getting to fight bulls with one of your best friends,” Rutkowski said. “Working with guys like Harp, you know you have to step your game up. It brings your level of bullfighting to the highest level you can have.”

postheadericon Big crowds, big events define fair

World champion saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley competes in tie-down roping last week during the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. By competing in both events, Crawley won the Waller County Linderman Award. (JAMES PHIFER PHOTO)

World champion saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley competes in tie-down roping last week during the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. By competing in both events, Crawley won the Waller County Linderman Award. (JAMES PHIFER PHOTO)

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – The Waller County Fair and Rodeo was blessed with the perfect storm during this year’s exposition.

“The weather was perfect,” said Clint Sciba, president of the Waller County Fair Board. “We had a cool front come in a couple days before the rodeo, so it was the perfect time to have an outdoor rodeo.

“The combination of the attendance, the top PRCA contestants and the top PRCA stock from Pete Carr all came to fruition right here in Waller County. It was the biggest attendance we’ve ever had over the final three days of our fair and rodeo.”

That says quite a bit about this year’s event, which took place Sept. 23-Oct. 1 in Hempstead. The fair has been recognized as one of the best expos in the region because of its concert lineup, carnival, exhibitors and world-class rodeo.

“The fair in general drew great attendance with big-name entertainers each night,” Sciba said. “Our carnival had probably the largest crowd it’s ever had on the final Saturday night alone.”

There were plenty of entertaining aspects all over the Waller County Fairgrounds, highlighted by the goings-on at the rodeo arena. From the two eliminator contests – featuring the top tie-down ropers and team ropers in ProRodeo – to all the other activities, there were plenty of highlights that came about over the course of the fair.

“The eliminators have become a huge hit,” he said. “We had six of the top 15 tie-down ropers that were part of Tuesday’s eliminator, and we had four of the top six teams in the team roping on Wednesday. The magnitude of that money gold buckles and NFR qualifiers in the arena is amazing to me. It continues to draw more top-name cowboys and be a successful event.”

The fair board also added a youth bareback riding to this year’s festivities, which helped add to the overall flavor of the championship rodeo.

“We had a four-man mini bareback challenge during our Thursday rodeo performance, and it was great,” Sciba said. “We had two elementary schools go head to head, and everyone had a great time with it. The schools had pep rallies for it, and a lot of people came out and supported it.

“Our Friday night and Saturday night performances of the rodeo showed the best in the world. On Friday alone, we had five gold buckles in the arena at once, like (two-time bull riding world champion) Sage Kimzey to (2013 tie-down roping titlist) Shane Hanchey. We had great stock, NFR stock every night; Saturday night we had six bareback horses that had been to the NFR and had world champion bucking horse Big Tex. That just made it great for the fans, and we were standing-room only on Saturday night.”

There were numerous highlights that happened over the nine-day exposition, including Barnyard Buddies and the Waller County Linderman Award, which was given to the ProRodeo cowboy who excelled in both timed events and roughstock events.

Jacobs Crawley, the reigning world champion saddle bronc rider from Boerne, Texas, won the Linderman by competing in tie-down roping and finishing third in his traditional event.

Now in its second year, Barnyard Buddies is a program set up for special education students in Waller County. Those students were able to take part in several fair events set up just for them.

“That’s probably the highlight of the fair as far as I’m concerned,” Sciba said. “We had 200 kids that participated, and we had another 200 4H and FFA kids that served as mentors. We had about 100 adult volunteers who helped put on the event.

“It really just added the right flavor to the fair.”

Sciba has been associated with the fair board for several years, including the last four as its president. He will continue to volunteer his time.

“This is my last year as president, but I’m still going to be active and involved in our fair,” he said. “I am so thankful for all our exhibitors, parents, volunteers and community supporters that made the fair what it is today. I was just lucky to be the guy over it the last four years.”

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