Thursday's first night of the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo kicked off the first of the three-day event at the Finney County Fairgrounds.
The first day of the rodeo also kicked off the official start of the summer tour for the PRCA, which saw the return of many of North America’s best Cowboys and Cowgirls to Garden City.
The featured portion of Thursday's events started with the most popular event of the night, bull riding, and the bulls did most of the winning, despite the field including four of the top ten ranked riders in the official PRCA Bull Riding world standings. Only two riders were able to ride out the eight seconds to post on the leaderboard. The bulls went 11 bucks for 13 on the night.
Kansas was well represented in the first section of bull riding as Fort Scott native Trey Holston was one of two riders to post a qualifying ride. The Kansas product scored a 77, which placed him in second.
The second section of the night saw four time PRCA World bull riding champion Sage Steele Kimzey score the best ride of the night, when he rode Laser Beam to a score of 84.
“I knew the bull coming in was a nice bull, and I thought he’d be about the score he was," Kimzey said. "You hate to say that everything was expected but, it went as planned.”
The 23-year-old Kimzey is hoping to stay atop the leaderboard as he travels to Claremore, Okla.m Friday morning to try and claim a title there, as well.
The “fastest” event of the night, the breakaway roping, was a local affair as all five women in the night section of the event were from southwestern Kansas. Dodge City, Lakin, and Garden City were represented in the event.
Former Broncbuster Kashly Schweer is just happy that the women get the opportunity to ride and show what they have.
“It was a really good rodeo, and we really appreciate the Beef Empire Days’ committee allowing the girls to have the breakaway roping here," Schweer said. "There are not a lot of rodeos that add that on the pro circuit, so we really appreciate the committee.”
On her performance on Thursday, Schwer was really happy with the results.
“The night went really well," she said. "The cattle are a little bit tricky, some of them leave harder than others. I scored great and luckily it all worked out.”
Bareback riding was perhaps the most consistent of the events as the top scores were placed in the event, which also saw the most competitive field of the night. The fourth, ninth, 10th and 12th ranked riders in the PRCA World Rankings all took part.
The fourth-ranked Tim O’Connell, who set a PRCA World Record here in Garden City last year at Beef Empire Days with a score of 93, failed to place in the top three as his score of 79 was not enough to place him at the top of the leaderboard.
The 12th-ranked Steven Dent rode his horse Free Sample to a score of 85.5 to lead the way after the first day.
Current second-place rider, Orin Larsen, was content with his ride on Thursday.
“I think I did pretty good. That was kind of an old horse that been around for about ten years, so there weren't any surprises with him," he said.
Larsen is hopeful he can get a piece of the prize money when it's all said and done.
“I’m pretty confident," he said. "There is still a lot of rodeo left, but we’ll just let the chips fall where they may and roll with it. I hope it’ll place. It won't win it, but I’ll get a decent chunk of it.”
In the saddle bronc riding event, former GCCC rider Court Scheer was bucked off by Bad Onion, the No. 3-ranked horse in professional rodeo. At the top of the leaderboard in that event is Wade Sundell from Boxholm, Iowa, who is the number four ranked saddle bronc rider in the PRCA finished in first place after a score of 81.5.
The first day leaders will look to hold their position when the second day of the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo is set to kick off Friday with the morning slack, and then another feature event at 7 p.m., at the Finney County Fairgrounds.