GERRY - A record number of 169 professional cowboys and cowgirls have registered for the Gerry Fire Department's 68th PRCA rodeo and will by competing for a record $35,000 in prize money beginning this Wednesday at 8 p.m. and continuing for four performances through Saturday.
Registration for the rodeo is done through the PRCA headquarters in Colorado Springs, Col., and each contestant pays an entry fee for his or her event. These entry fees range from $70 to $150 depending on the event and become part of the total prize purse.
The list of competitors is led by the barrel racers with 48, followed by the tie-down ropers and the steer wrestlers with 29 in each event. Bull riding has 20 entries while 17 teams of two cowboys have entered the team roping.
Each event will have two "go rounds", meaning each contestant will compete in his event twice, except for the barrel racing where each cowgirl will get only one ride due to the large number of entries.
The biggest surprise occurs in the two bronc riding events which have recently been down in numbers at Gerry as well as across the nation. However, 34 cowboys have entered, with nine in the bareback competition and 25 in the saddle bronc event to provide fans with the most action on horseback in years. Rodeo chairman Tom Atwell says this is probably due to the fact that the fire department added additional prize money this year and the new stock contractor, Shawn Graham of Painted Pony Pro Rodeo, added $3000 of his own money to the bronc events.
Prize money comes from the fire department and from sponsors, as well as from the entry fees paid by the contestants. Atwell says that the rodeo could not exist without the support of area businesses led by Heritage Ministries as a full sponsor, with Pepsi, WCA Orthopedics, FSC Systems, and Windstream Communications as event sponsors. The chute gate sponsors are Ostrom Enterprises, Altmeyers Western Wear, Wing City Grill/Village Casino, and Falconer Gutter Supply.
In addition to the seven traditional competition events, the rodeo will feature the National Anthem being sung by a six-year-old, animal acts with a llama and miniature stallion and comedy by "Scooter" Smith, trick riding, a 20-booth midway featuring everything from cotton candy to Western wear, and a special free kids' rodeo at 3 p.m. on Saturday, as well as beef barbecue dinners served each evening at 5 p.m. in the air-conditioned dining hall.
This is now the longest consecutively running rodeo east of the Mississippi. All proceeds benefit the fire department which answers 350 fire and rescue calls each year.
Additional information is available on line at www.gerryrodeo.org or by phone at 985-4847 or 1-888-985-4847.