Published 6/5/2012 in Beef Empire Days-Sports
By BRETT MARSHALL
The 26th edition of the Beef Empire Days Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Rodeo promises to be every bit as competitive and challenging as it has been in the past as nearly 600 contestants in various events arrive in town Wednesday morning to begin four days of battle at the Fairgrounds Arena.
Brad Nading/Telegram Lukey Dotson, Hindsville, Ark., tries to stay on Bullweevil on a ride in the 2011 Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo's bull riding.
Slack competition begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday with women's barrel racing first up on the schedule. That will be followed by steer wrestling, tie down roping, team roping and then conclude with three rounds of steer roping.
That first day sets the stage for the three nights of competition featuring many of the world's top-ranked cowboys and women's barrel racers.
"You'll have former world champions in any number of the events," said Mike Mathis, who will serve as the rodeo announcer and is making his 18th appearance at the BED event. "Trevor Brazile (current No. 1 in All-Around), a great champion, and then Cody Teel, current No. 1 in bull riding, will be here. You've got some of the best in saddle bronc and bareback riding as well."
Wednesday's steer roping event looms as the highlight of the day as every roper in the current PRCA World Standings top 10 will be competing, headlined by Brazile of Decatur, Texas. He is the 2011 World All-Around champion and also was the No. 1 steer roper of 2011.
"To have this kind of field in this one event is pretty amazing," Mathis said. "You'll only see this level at the NFR. It's a star-studded field."
Running down the remaining top 10 current ranked steer ropers, there will be Cody Lee of Gatesville, Texas; Kim Ziegelgruber of Edmond, Okla.; Dan Fisher of Andrews, Texas; Jess Tierney of Hermosa, S.D.; Vin Fisher Jr. of Andrews, Texas; Rod Hartness of Pawhuska, Okla.; Chet Herren of Pawhuska; Marty Jones of Hobbs, N.M., and Chris Glover of Keenesburg, Colo. Add in nine of the ropers ranked from 11th to 20th and then eight ranked between 21st and 30th, and you can see how tough the competition will be.
Wednesday's barrel racers will have No. 17-ranked Angie Meadors of Blanchard, Okla., heading the list in that competition. She will be joined by No. 36 Tana Poppino of Big Cabin, Okla.; No. 50 Morgan Figueroa of Bandera, Texas; No. 79 Tracey Austin-Ivy of Sanger, Texas, and Brazile's wife, Shada, ranked No. 90.
Brazile and his team roping partner Patrick Smith of Midland, Texas, come in ranked No. 4 and 5 as headers and heelers in that event. But they also will be challenged by No. 2 header Kaleb Driggers of Albany, Ga., and his partner Jade Corkill of Fallon, Nev. (ranked No. 6 as a heeler). Other top 10 teams include Garrett Tonozzi of Fruita, Colo., and Ryan Motes of Weatherford, Texas (No. 7/No. 10); and Nick Sartain of Dover, Okla., and Kollin VonAhn of Durant, Okla. (No. 5/No. 4).
Brazile and Shank Edwards are the top tie down ropers who will compete Wednesday. Brazile is currently ranked No. 24 while Edwards, of Tatum, N.M., is ranked No. 11. Dean Gorsuch of Gering, Neb., comes in as the highest ranked steer wrestler at No. 2.
The PRCA contestants will compete each night in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, steer roping and bull riding. The barrel racing is under the auspices of the Women's Professional Rodeo Association.
The three evening rodeos begin at 7 p.m. Thursday will be Family Night. Tickets can be purchased in advanced at Garden True Value, Crazy House and Baker Boot. A family of four can be admitted for $10. Friday night will be the annual "Are You Tough Enough to Wear Pink?" which will recognize and honor breast cancer survivors and raise funds for research locally. Tickets for Friday and Saturday night sessions are priced at $7, $12 and $16. Gates open at 5 p.m. each evening. Wednesday's slack competition is free to the public.
The PRCA Merchandise Trailer will be making its debut at the Beef Empire Days Rodeo this year and it will be located behind the grandstands next to the Exhibition Building and will be open at 5 p.m. each of the three days and remain open until the rodeo is concluded each night. A full array of PRCA items will be available for sale.
More than 30 states and contestants from Australia, New Zealand and Canada will compete for more than $100,000 in prize money, marking the early start to a summer of PRCA events that will lead up to December's National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
"The next 60 to 90 days will determine a lot of who will compete at the NFR," Mathis said. "This is a popular event for the contestants for a variety of reasons. The facilities are excellent, the added purse money is attractive to them if they come in and get a good ride they can get a good check, and the committee here does such a great job of taking care of them when they're in town."
Mathis said that another reason for the quality of the competition is the rodeo stock being provided comes from Korkow Rodeos of Pierrer, S.D.
Generally regarded as one of the rodeo stock producers in the country, Korkow Rodeos makes its only Kansas appearance at the BED PRCA event.
"They have for many years been among the best for their rough stock of (saddle bronc, bareback) horses," Mathis said. "Now, for the past four or five years, they've really devoted a lot of time and money to a bull breeding program that has put them among the top breeders. They've had horses and bulls selected for the NFR and it's very prestigious. That's a tall order to get several chosen and to get that many good ones, it's a credit to the Korkows."
Brian Schwindt, who is the marketing officer at First National Bank of Johnson/Syracuse/Garden City, is handling much of the publicity this year. He is being groomed by veteran committee member Tom Blackburn, who has been on the BED Rodeo committee for more than 20 years.
"We've got some new people, including several new women on our VIP Committee, who will be handling a lot of the details for us this year," Blackburn said. "We're excited to get some new faces involved."
Rod Wolking is serving his second year as BED Rodeo Committee president and Mike Ketterling is the vice-president.
Gizmo McCracken, regarded as one of the best clowns in the rodeo business, will be on hand each of the days of the BED and fans will be entertained with a wide variety of skits.
"The last time he was here, we had six inches of rain and he still got out there in the arena and put on quite a show," Mathis said of McCracken.
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