By Denton Josey, Features Editor
This year’s rodeo at the West Texas Fair and Rodeo brings top names and new events.
Kelly Gill, chairman of the West Texas Fair Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo committee, is in his third year as chair and has served on the committee since 1993. He said presently there are 22 members on the committee.
The current rodeo is an Abilene tradition of more than three decades.
“There was a rodeo here in the past, but the first PRCA sanctioned rodeo was in 1970,” Gill said. “Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were there as performers; they were in the headlines.”
The rodeo features six men’s and women’s events and barrel racing for women only.
Gill said bull riding is probably the most popular event.
“Action, risk – it all happens in eight seconds,” he said.
Currently, the overall leader in the PRCA is Trevor Brazil. Heading into the end of the season, Brazil is signed up to participate in team roping during the rodeo. Gill said Brazil has earned $218,000 this year.
Gill said the rodeo participants aren’t only from Texas or Abilene.
“There’s a lot from Texas, but they’re from all over the United States,” he said.
New to the Abilene rodeo this year is mutton busting. It begins 30 minutes before the rodeo officially starts at 7 p.m. In mutton busting, children under 60 pounds strap on safety equipment and attempt to ride sheep as long as they can.
“It’s a good, clean, fun children’s event that’s done in rodeos all over,” Gill said.
Gill said a number of professional rodeo cowboys started out mutton busting, and it is a good way to get young people involved in rodeo.
“Hadley Barrett is the announcer for mutton busting, so those children get the same announcer as somebody who’s leading the world in rodeo.”
Every night, the rodeo costs $6 for adults and $3 for kids. It lasts around two hours and 45 minutes, Gill said.
“I think pro[fessional] rodeo exemplifies a lot of the heritage of Texas and this area of west central Texas,” Gill said. “The first rodeo was in the 1880s or 1890s and it was in Pecos, Texas, so there is a long history of that here. This is a continuous and consecutive public sponsored event for 38 years.”
Gill said the rodeo exemplifies a part of Abilene’s Wild West culture.
“In Texas working with livestock and agriculture has been a big part of our livelihood and base,” Gill said. “That’s why Abilene was started.”
Bob “Kool” White, nontraditional student from Abilene, said he grew up going to the fair and tries to go every year. He said
even if some people aren’t into it, it only comes once a year, and it is something to do. White goes to the rodeo “for the sake of the splendor, the fellowship and seeing your friends.”
White said his favorite event is bareback riding.
“There’s just more action. It’s not like the cow milking contest – there’s not much action there. It’s a spectacular event.”