Puyallup proved again that this isn’t its first rodeo as it welcomed the Pro Justin Boots Rodeo Playoffs for the Washington State Fair’s opening weekend. Each of the 24 contestants had the opportunity to take away from the $422,000 competition purse.
Bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, barrel racing and bull riding were the featured competitions at the rodeo. Three of these events included Washington State locals competing for their chance at moving forward in the playoffs.
Riley and Bray Minor of Ellensburg came out to showcase their skills in the team roping portion of the competition. The two were one of the first pairs to successfully rope their steer during the matinee show on opening day.
Nichole Aichele of Walla Walla kicked up some dirt in the barrel racing competition. Despite missing the second barrel during her first performance, the crowd greeted her with stadium shaking cheers.
Cheyne Olney of Toppenish presented his talents in the last leg of the competition, bull riding.
Keeping the cowboys safe during the bull riding competition fell on the shoulders of the bullfighters, who are dressed in striped socks, colorful shirts and are adorned with bright handkerchiefs. Eatonville resident Dan Newman returned to Puyallup this year to lend his expertise in the event. Wrangler Bullfighting recognized Newman in the top ten for seven consecutive years.
This stop for the Pro Justin Boots Rodeo is an important one for all the contenders. Placing in the top spots in Puyallup will progress them on to the final stop in Omaha, Neb. to contend for the title of Wrangler Million Dollar Tour Champion. Being successful at both rodeos is important for those who wish to qualify to compete at the Wrangler NFR in Las Vegas early next December.
“In order to qualify for the NFR you have to be top 15 in the world,” said announcer Randy Corley to the rodeo audiences last weekend.
A light mist slightly clouded the arena during the entire first performance on opening day, but that didn’t scare away the masses. “It’s that good old Washington liquid sunshine,” joked Corley.
Enthusiasm was in no short supply as the audience packed the stands almost to capacity to show support for the rain or shine event.
“This is the greatest rodeo in the world,” said Hadley Barrett, co-announcer at the rodeo. “I didn’t realize how loyal you all were until I saw the grey skies this morning.”
The 40-year veteran of PRCA announcing was joined by award-winning announcer Randy Corley to cover the Washington State Rodeo over the weekend. This year marked the 79th anniversary of the event, making it a continuous staple for fairgoers.
Laughter was abundant thanks to highly recognized rodeo clown and barrelman Keith Isley. He made a splash with the crowd by pulling them into his shenanigans and giving out free shirts via a T-shirt gun.
“He’s been, what, rodeo clown of the year 103 times,” joked Hardley.
That jest isn’t far from the truth. Isley has been awarded “Specialty Act of the Year” six times, PRCA’s “Clown of the Year” six times, “Comedy Act of the Year” three times, and was named Coors “Man in the Can” for 2012. Trick riding, trick roping, and comedy are all part of his repertoire.
The rodeo concluded with the finals on Sunday afternoon that sent the top 12 scoring competitors to the last stop for the Pro Justin Boots Championships in Omaha.Elsy Pawelak is a freelance reporter for the Herald.