The Farm-City Pro Rodeo begins Wednesday with 456 contestants entered, including some of the top names in rodeo and a slew of last year’s champions.
“All the top cowboys are coming,” said David Bothum, co-founder of the Farm-City Pro Rodeo and former professional saddle bronc rider.
“Bucking horse-wise and bucking bulls-wise, it’s just outstanding. It should be an outstanding rodeo.”
Bothum said the timed-event stock is also high quality, for the timed roping events.
Bothum has been busy in recent weeks as a subcontractor and rodeo board member, getting the arena and rodeo facilities ready for this years rodeo.
“I think everyone — cowboys, spectators — will be impress with this facility.” Bothum said.
He expressed appreciation to the community for its support in getting to this point.
“The community should be pretty amazed when they come walking through,” he said.
Among those scheduled to compete in the new Farm-City Arena at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center are five of the cowboys in the Top 10 for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association all-around title including current standings leader, Tuf Cooper of Weatherford, Texas, and 13-time All-Around Cowboy World Champion Trevor Brazile.
The man who’s owned the Farm-City all-around title for two of the last three years, Rhen Richard, is also expected to compete in defense of his 2016 Hermiston rodeo title.
Russell Cardoza of Terrebonne, Oregon, who is leading the all-around race for the Columbia River Circuit, is also slated to compete in three events.
Returning bareback champion Jake Vold is signed up to try to defend his title, as is steer wrestling champ Clayton Hass, who sits seventh in the PRCA all-around world standings. He will also compete in the team roping event.
Tyrell J. Smith, 2016 Farm-City saddle bronc co-champion, is scheduled to ride in defense of his buckle from last year. The Sand Coulee, Montana, cowboy tied for the 2016 saddle bronc title with Sterling Crawley. Crawley is not entered in this year’s show.
Tyler Prcin of Alvord, Texas, who won the tie-down roping last year in Hermiston will also be back to attempt a repeat win. Timber Moore of Aubrey, Texas, and Matt Shiozawa of Chubbock, Idaho, who won the event in 2015 and 2013 respectively, are also entered in this year’s tie-down roping in Hermiston.
The top Farm-City team ropers from 2016 — Garrett Tonozzi and Wyatt Cox — are also expected back in Hermiston this week as is last year’s barrel racing champion, Kimmie Wall.
The only event in which a 2016 Farm-City champion who isn’t entered for the 2017 rodeo is last year’s bull riding champion Cole Melancon, who is currently ranked seventh in the world standings.
But there will be no shortage of bull riding talent as five of the cowboys in the Top 10 of the bull riding world standings are entered in Farm-City, including Garret Smith of Rexburg, Idaho (No. 2), and Ty Wallace of Collbran, Colorado. (No. 3).
At least 32 cowboys and cowgirls from Umatilla and Morrow counties are entered in the event, 17 just from Hermiston. Local competition will be particularly prominent in the barrel racing event, with 18 barrel racers from Umatilla and Morrow counties, led by Callahan Crossley of Hermiston, who is currently in seventh place in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s Columbia River Circuit standings as of July 31. Crossley and the rest of the local barrel racers will be competing against some of the top talent in the event.
Seven of the top 10 barrel racers in the current WPRA standings are entered in Farm-City including top-ranked Tiany Schuster of Krum, Texas, who has a lead of more than $76,000 over second-place Stevi Hillman of Weatherford, Texas, who is also entered. The top-ranked Oregon cowgirl is Amberleigh Moore of Salem-Keizer, Oregon, who is also entered in the Farm-City field and leads the Columbia River Circuit standings.
Even before the rodeo started, stock contractor T.J. Korkow praised the new setup.
“I think it’s awesome,” Korkow said while unloading his bucking horses and bulls in the new stock pens.
“They’ve all been very impressed,” Bothum said of the stock contractor’s assessment of the new facility.
The pens are big and animals can relax and not be crowded, Bothum said.
There is another advantage for the animals and contractors in that they can stay on the grounds through the whole run of the rodeo.
“They don’t have to haul ’em in (every day) like they have for the last 30 years,” when the animals were housed at stock yards away from the rodeo arena. Bothum said that means there is less chance of an incident occurring during transport, possibly resulting in injuries to livestock.
And less transporting also means less work for the contractors moving livestock around every day.
Bothum express appreciated to the community for supporting the rodeo and it’s board of directors and efforts to get the facility to this point.
He said they will learn from this week and see if anything still needs to be improved and, if so, “we’ll make it better.”
Gary L. West is editor of the Hermiston Herald and Hermiston editor for the East Oregonian. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @GaryLWest or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/journalist.glwest.