Rodeo spectators will see rodeo clowns return for the 2018 Canyonlands PRCA Rodeo. [Courtesy photo]

Saddle up and sink your heels into a wild ride with Canyonlands Professional Rodeo Cowboys of America. Moab’s regional rodeo is setting up on Thursday, May 31, through Saturday, June 2, at the Old Spanish Trail Arena.

The rodeo’s organizers anticipate a full turnout for the event.  The venue’s administrative assistant, Belinda McKinney, says in years past all ages have come together — with locals and tourists returning each night — to rally behind a variety of entertaining rodeo traditions that have been coming to the area for over 50 years.

“It really brings together the community,” McKinney said. “There are lots of volunteers, sponsors and community involvement.”

The equine circus presents steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, bull riding, bareback riding, and calf roping. Featured guest entertainment and events for children round out the selection of rodeo activities.

“I feel the Canyonlands PRCA Rodeo is for our local community,” said Angela Book, a rodeo participant. “[People] are going to see just that from our honorary Grand Marshal, to our local middle and high school students, or our local nurse riding a horse in a drill routine. We even have our local group of dancers showing us their moves on the arena floor, along with the Moab [Future Farmers of America] chapter selling refreshments for a fundraiser.”

Book says the local Boy Scouts will help manage parking for the event. Several regional vocalists auditioned to perform the national anthem. A different performer will present the song each night.

“This is all a pre-show event,” she said. “Then you get to watch these amazing cowboys take the eight-second ride.”

Bull riders must survive eight seconds in order to obtain a score, and even then are subject to four judges’ calls regarding both the rider and the bull.

Book says the children’s events take place in the middle of the show and slots fill quickly. The “Stick Pony Race” is open to two age groups. The “Mutton Bustin” invites kids age six and older, but under 65 pounds, to see how long they can ride a sheep.

Canyonlands PRCA Rodeo President Kirk Pearson recalls an enthusiastic entry of a previous Mutton Bustin.

“That kid rode that sheep backwards so his feet were up by the head,” he said. “And he actually won.”

Book became involved in the rodeo several years ago due to her love of horses and her passion for the sport of rodeo. Her daughter, Harlie Book, also rides in the drill team, and runs flags during the rodeo.

“It truly becomes a family affair,” she said.

Pearson got involved in 2000, and became president a decade later.

“Each day is a different rodeo with different cowboys and cowgirls,” he said. “Then there are seven total events within each rodeo.”

Pearson most looks forward to the bareback and saddle bronc, but believes most people favor the bull riding.

Thursday evening is intended to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer. Tickets are nearly half-priced with discounts available for locals, military and seniors. Attendees are encouraged to wear pink. The Moab Grill and the Moab Free Health Clinic traditionally sponsor activities and concessions.

Tickets for Friday and Saturday will be $16 for adults and $10 for children at the door. To save money, attendees can purchase tickets in advance online or at local ticket outlets City Market, Moab Information Center, Big Horn Lodge or Canyonlands Copy Center. Families receive an additional discount.

Local six-piece band Bubba and the Red Rock Outlaws will play a free show following the rodeo finale at 9 p.m.

“There are so many moving parts and returning local sponsors that make this rodeo possible,” said McKinney. “We are proud to be one of them.”

Decades old rodeo returns

“I feel the Canyonlands PRCA Rodeo is for our local community. [People] are going to see just that from our honorary Grand Marshall, to our local middle and high school students, or our local nurse riding a horse in a drill routine.”