It’s been a Moab tradition for more than 50 years. But this year the Canyonlands PRCA Rodeo will be just a little bit different.
It will still be held over three days on the first weekend of June, specifically Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, May 30, 31 and June 1. And it will still be at the Old Spanish Trail Arena.
Yes, there will be bullriders, and barrel racers and bulldoggers. Children will ride stick horse races, bust some mutton and chase greased pigs. And there will be a Saturday morning parade down Main Street.
But there will also be a party Saturday night.
“We’re having a live band at the arena directly after the rodeo,” said Danette Johnson, one of the organizers of the event. “Once the last animal goes out, the band will bring in their equipment on a trailer and begin playing live music.”
Jagertown will playing country music for a night of dancing.
The dance is free with a rodeo ticket. However, if you show up after the rodeo is over, you’ll still need to buy a rodeo ticket to get in for the party.
There will be a full bar that will feature beer from the Moab Brewery, wine from the Castle Creek Winery and Pembleton Whiskey.
“The cowboys that participate Saturday night will be staying,” Johnson said. “People can mingle with the cowboys and get their autographs.”
Those cowboys will be competing in all the traditional events: steer wrestling, team roping, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback roping, and bullriding.
The steer wrestler, also known as a “bulldogger,” uses strength and technique to wrestle a bull that weighs more than twice the cowboy. And as the bull is running the cowboy is chasing it on a horse, both are traveling at 30 miles an hour when the two meet.
Then there is the bareback riding, where the cowboy works to stay on the back of a bucking horse for 8 seconds with only a single handhold. It’s considered one of the most physically demanding events of the night, where muscles, ligaments and joints are pushed to the limit as the cowboy tries to maintain control.
But the most dangerous event of the night is the last event: bullriding.
Like bareback riding, the cowboy holds on with only a one-handed strap, requiring the cowboy to use balance and leg strength to remain on the back of a 2000 pound animal for eight seconds.If he touches the bull with the remaining hand, he receives no score.
Those bullriders may rely on rodeo clown Justin Lumford for safety.
The funny guy does more than entertain the crowds, he distracts the bulls to keep fallen riders safe.
Lumford won the PRCA Clown of the Year in 2012.
“We have an awesome clown,” said Kirk Pearson, president of the Rodeo Club, which organizes the rodeo each year. “His family has been in rodeo for four generations.”
But cowboys aren’t the only competitors, there are the cowgirls too.
This year the barrel racing event is focused on local riders.
“We have a lot of locals that do barrel racing,” Johnson said.
Each night’s competition is limited to 10 barrel racers. The entry fee for the jackpot barrel racing is $50. First place will take home $200; second $125 and third $75.
“Anyone from the community can sign-up for barrel racing. They can come out and participate, its not just the professional cowboys,” Pearson said.
Then there are the kids.
Children between the ages of three and six years old are encouraged to run in the stick pony race.
Everyone is a winner, they get the ponies they ride.
“The stick ponies are lovingly made by the ladies in the community and the FCCLA club at the high school,” Johnson said.
Each of the stick ponies are hand made.
“They all look different,” Pearson said. “Each have their own character.”
Children between the ages of six and nine can compete like the cowboys do, but on the back of a sheep in the mutton busting competition.
And those that are between the ages of nine and twelve can chase a greased pig.
“Sign up for those events start at 6:30 p.m., just inside the doors of the arena,” Johnson said.
There will also be carnival each night, from 5 to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, Pearson said.
Saturday morning is the annual rodeo parade that begins at Swanny Park, makes a trek down Main Street and finishes at the Grand County Middle School.
Rodeo queen Jessica Pyatt and junior queen Marisol Pesce will be honored in the parade. The two were chosen last August and have served all year, providing pony rides at community events such as the Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival and Moab Arts Festival.
Johnson said the rodeo is trying to expand a little bit to increase the fun and bring in a bigger crowd.
And help out the budget.
“We really want people to understand this organization is a non-profit, completely run by volunteers,” Johnson said. “It’s an incredible feat to put on this event.”
As a PRCA event, the rodeo draws in professional cowboys from across the country and Canada who are gathering points all season in order to compete at the Wrangler National Finals in Las Vegas, Nev., in December.
Putting on a professional rodeo event isn’t cheap. There’s the stock contractor, PRCA dues and more.
The Grand County Recreation Special Service District loans the rodeo $30,000 every year to help pay for upfront costs.
“We struggle every year to pay that loan back,” Johnson said. =
And that’s why they rely so much on local sponsors, ticket sales, and this year, merchandise as well, Johnson said.
This year they’re working with the Wrangler “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” campaign that benefits breast cancer awareness. Both the Moab Free Health Clinic and Moab Regional Hospital are partnering with the campaign.
“This year the ‘tough enough to wear pink’ merchandise is being sold around the community,” Johnson said.
There will also be pink ribbons sold at City Market, Zax, Frankie D’s, and the Moab Grill.
“Money from the sale of merchandise will go to underwrite for mammograms at the Free Health Clinic on June 19 and 20,” Johnson said.
Women can register for the low-cost mammograms at the free clinic, or sign up at the rodeo.
Pearson said the Rodeo Club, which puts on the community event, has been working with different community organizations for volunteer work, such as the Future Farmers of America and cheerleaders from Grand County High School, and the sorority Delta Chi.
“They’re assisting us and we’re assisting them,” Pearson said.
Johnson said the Rodeo Club is always looking for more volunteers.
“It is a non-profit club that anyone is welcome to join,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”