Published 5/29/2012 in Beef Empire Days
By BRETT MARSHALL
When the 27th Annual Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo breaks out of the chute on June 6 with the slack at the Finney County Fairgrounds Arena, it will start four days of competition that will bring hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls to Garden City in what is annually one of the biggest sporting events in western Kansas.
Brad Nading/Telegram Stewart Gulager, Garland, works on turning a steer to the ground on a run in the 2011 Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo at the Finney County Fairgrounds arena.
Brad Nading/Telegram Competitors watch as Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, lassos a calf on a run in the tie down event during the 2007 Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo at the Finney County Fairgrounds. The rodeo has drawn several world champions in various events to compete in through the years.
Brad Nading/Telegram Ryan Swayze, Freedom, Okla., kicks up the dirt as he turns a steer to the ground on a run in the 2011 Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo slack steer wrestling in the Finney County Fairgrounds rodeo arena.
Brad Nading/Telegram Rochelle Miller, Scott City, turns her horse around the second barrel on a run in the 2011 Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo slack barrel racing at the Finney County Fairgrounds Arena.
A year ago, more than 30 of the world's top-10 ranked cowboys participated in the rodeo, which doled out more than $115,000 in prize money in nine events.
The slack and steer roping occupy the Wednesday schedule and are free to the public.
The three nights of top-caliber rodeo events begin at 7:05 p.m. for each performance June 7 through 9. Tickets have been priced at $7 for general admission, $12 for bench back seats and $16 for bucket seats.
The opening night session on June 7 has been declared "Family Night," and a family of four can get general admission ticket entry for a total of $10. The June 8 performance is Breast Cancer Awareness Night and carries a slogan, "Are You Tough Enough to Wear Pink?" Officials, contestants and people who attend are encouraged to wear pink that night to support research to cure the deadly disease.
At the Friday night performance, the 2012 BED Rodeo Queen will be introduced and crowned. Contestants for that honor go through a rigorous judging in a variety of areas, including horsemanship.
Donnie Landis, one of the premier rodeo "clowns" in the business for more than 40 years, returns to the arena in support as the barrelman during the three nights of competition. Gizmo McCracken also returns with his variety show and bag of tricks to entertain the audience each night.
There also will be Celebrity Team Roping each night, featuring three teams each from Garden City and Dodge City that will vie for area honors.
Texan Mike Mathis returns as the rodeo's announcer for the three nights, and his knowledge of the competitors and the stock that will be ridden provides the audience with excitement and entertainment each evening. Mathis has many stories that he shares that give the audience a better understanding of the event and the contestants. He generally is regarded as one of the top announcers on the PRCA circuit.
The Beef Empire Days Rodeo also welcomes back the Korkow Rodeo group, which provides the stock for the bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc events. T.S. Korkow has learned from his father, Jim, who still is active at the rodeos.
Long recognized as a premier stock producer, the third generation Korkow family, which calls Pierre, S.D., home, will bring approximately 30 bulls, 22 bareback and 30 saddle bronc horses. The BED Rodeo is the only appearance the Korkows make in Kansas.
"We're looking forward to pulling in there soon," said T.J. Korkow, third generation family member who handles the day-to-day rodeo stock selection for the family. "The community there is so good, it's like being home. They feed us, they appreciate what we do and they know it's a lot of hard work to put on a great rodeo."
Korkow said that the family looks forward to returning to Garden City each June to one of the premier events on the Prairie Circuit schedule.
"There'll be a lot of good cowboys coming in to ride, and we think we've got some great horses and bulls for them to challenge," T.J. said in a phone interview. "We're excited about the quality of both our horses and bulls."
Long known for their top-caliber horses, T.J. believes his young bulls will provide plenty of entertainment for the audience and more than enough challenge for the riders.
"They ain't gonna ride too many (of the bulls)," T.J. said of the cowboys. "If they do get a ride, they're gonna get a paycheck for sure."
T.J. said that his crop of bulls are, "big, mean and colorful."
"They just look like rodeo bulls," he said. "They jump out of the chute, turn back and kick high. It's like 1,700 pounds of explosives."
Some of his top rookies in the saddle broncs are Cinna Rose, who comes from parents that bucked at the National Finals Rodeo several years ago. Two of his young bareback horses are Teaspoon and Canadian Sunrise.
Among his youthful bulls making their first trip to Kansas are Magnum Force, Sharpshooter, Model T and Dirty Invasion. T.J. mentioned that Dirty Invasion has been spectacular thus far in his early rodeo rides.
"He's just amazing to watch coming out of the chute," T.J. said. "He's been wild in the chute, and we had to get him out and trained last year at some smaller rodeos. He's got two little stubs for horns, but he's added about 400 pounds of weight, and he's one tough bull."
Like many of the cowboys who will be riding, T.J. sees his horses and bulls as athletes.
"They're really athletic buggers, and we're thrilled to be coming back," he said.
T.J. and his family are proud of the fact that several of the horses and bulls that will be here were chosen for last year's National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. And many of them provided great rides for the cowboys who won or placed high each night.
Inky was an NFR bareback horse. Royce Paul also won on her at the St. Paul, Minn., rodeo last year. Paint Chip was voted the top saddle bronc at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Futurity in 2011 and also went to the NFR. Another saddle bronc, Fraid Not, was ridden by world champ Taos Muncy for 90 points at the prestigious Pendleton, Ore., Roundup last fall, and then was an NFR entrant where two riders placed atop her.
Muncy also rode another saddle bronc, Blew Apart, to a seventh-round victory at the NFR in December.
On the bulls, T.J. said that people will enjoy watching Bad Habit, who has yet to be ridden in six rodeos, covering nearly 20 rides.
"He threw Shane Proctor (world champion) if that tells you anything," T.J. said. "Some kid stayed on him once for about seven seconds (eight seconds is required to earn points), but most of them are staying on about 2-3 seconds."
Black Velvet was another NFR bull for the Korkows, and he was ridden by J.W. Harris to an eighth-round victory. Black Velvet also was ridden to a 93-point victory in Lufkin, Texas.
"Being a bucking kind of guy, I really like the bulls we've got," T.J. said. "Getting four rookies to the NFR was really something special, and they performed as good as you'd want."
One of Korkow's veteran bulls, Mortachi, likely will be making his final appearance in Garden City this year. The bull was voted the Outstanding Bull in the Badlands Circuit in 2008, and has challenged hundreds of riders for the past five seasons.
"It's maybe his last time to come," T.J. said of one of his favorite bulls. "He ain't missed a step. We've rested him, and he's fresh as a daisy. He's probably gonna come down and show up the young ones. Wouldn't be surprised if the riders have a hard time staying on him. He's pretty special."
With top-caliber cowboys — world ranked in many cases — and world class rodeo stock, it looms to be three great days of professional competition. It is estimated that nearly $2 million worth of business comes to Garden City as a direct result of the rodeo.
Advance tickets are available at Crazy House, Baker Boot, BED PRCA Rodeo Office or people may call 276-1000 or toll free at (866) 294-2333.
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