Saturday’s Kootenay Chrysler Bull-a-Rama promises an elite group of riders and also an equally impressive group of organizers and volunteers that make the event possible.
Tons of dirt has been unloaded in the arena, the Brahma bulls, bullfighters and a world-class contingent of bull-riders are on their way in anticipation of the 10th edition of the annual bull-busting event at the Trail Memorial Centre.
“This year we probably have the best field of riders that we’ve had since we started the event,” said coordinator Dave Rugg.
The affiliation change from the Pro Bull Riders (PBR) circuit to the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) puts Trail officially on the circuit, giving the competition additional significance.
“With the CPRA, these riders, their points will qualify them for the Canadian finals, where they can earn a lot more money,” said Rugg.
Indeed the annual weeklong event in Edmonton in November doles out $1.4 million in cash prizes to rodeo winners including $250,000 in the bull-riding ring.
The $12,000 in prizes is not bad either for a small event like Trail’s and riders are more than happy to make their way to the Silver City to win a few bucks and gain valuable points for a shot at the big prize.
“Some of these guys will hit three rodeos this weekend to get the points,” said organizer Guy Thompson.
A long time rodeo rider and fan, Thompson has been in the organizer’s saddle every year for Bull-a-Rama and agrees that this year may be the best.
“We’re going to have 30 riders and then we’ll bring the top eight of that 30 back to the finals . . . in the 10 years, this is probably the best bunch of bull riders we’ve ever had here,” he said.
Some of the riders have appeared on the History Channel’s “Life on the Circuit” a reality-based program about real-life rodeo cowboys, he added.
“We’ve got some really great guys coming but it’s a hard way to make a living getting on them darn things.”
But the show is not just about the cowboys; 50 Brahma-cross bulls are also en route from various circuits, as well as seasoned bullfighting veterans Brent Monya and Curtis Smythe. A new edition to the show will feature clown Ricky-Ticky-Wanchuck to entertain the crowd between rides and of course, favourite Ken McCoy and Crosswinds will once again entertain the crowd at the dance afterwards.
As Thompson and Rugg emphasize, the show could not go on if not for the efforts of the many volunteers and businesses that jump on board.
Virtually every facet of the annual event is organized by volunteers; event coordinators, truck drivers, loader operators, ushers, beer slingers and concession workers all donate their valuable time and skill to make the Bull-a-Rama a success.
“It’s a great event and you hope people understand how good of an event it is – it takes everybody to make it possible,” said Rugg.
With the continued support of the city and numerous sponsors, the event is by no means a cash cow, but it does provide non-profit groups a chance to benefit.
“It’s like minor hockey, you give them an opportunity to come on board and maybe it pays for a trip up north or something,” he added.
The Trail Smoke Eaters tend the beer gardens, minor hockey monitors security, the girls’ hockey team runs the concession, Trail Horseman’s Society sells 50/50 tickets, and other groups like the United Way or Salvation Army have all pitched in and reaped rewards from the event.
“We have a great group of volunteers and that’s the great thing about Trail, you can phone and knock on doors and people will come out to help . . . and the sponsors have just been great,” said Thompson.
This year many will miss the entertaining mutton busting but there will be junior steer riding as part of the competition and a compelling light show to kick things off.
“This is a family event, bring the kids out and have some fun – we sure hope it goes over well,” he said.
Advance tickets are $10 for kids, $21 adults or $12 and $24 at the door.
Doors open at 4:30 and organizers encourage rodeo goers to be in their seats by 6 p.m. to enjoy an electric opening.