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Ag Expo begins Saturday - Bull riding featured this year for the first time

July 29, 1997

Bull riding featured this year for the first time

By Teri Johnson

Staff Writer

Fans all over the country have fallen hard and fast for bull riding, an activity that's not for the fainthearted.

Those head over heels for the sport can see it on Ag Expo's opening night Saturday, Aug. 2, at 8:30.

Bull riding is expected to be a big draw at Ag Expo, which is at Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike through Friday, Aug. 8. Admission is $10 on Saturday, and children ages 8 and younger get in free.

Organizers tried to bring bull riding to last year's Ag Expo but were unable to book a contractor, says Tom Shaw, an Ag Expo board member who is in charge of the bull-riding event.

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As soon as last year's Ag Expo ended, work began to schedule a contractor for 1997, Shaw says.

"Bullride Mania" will be presented by Dave Martin's Championship Rodeos of Gettysburg, Pa.

The event will feature professional riders from all over the country in a bull-riding qualification round and a championship round, as well as cowgirls' barrel racing and bull fighting with rodeo clowns. Prizes will be $300 for barrel racing, $500 for bull fighting and $1,000 for bull riding, Shaw says.

Area children also will have the chance to participate by riding sheep in the mutton bustin' portion of the program.

Children 6 and younger weighing less than 45 pounds can take part, says Jeff Semler, extension agent in 4-H, natural resources and agriculture for University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Service.

An announcement will be made during the event for children to sign up, Semler says.

The action takes place in the tractor pull area.

Those who've never seen bull riding in person are in for a thrill, says Jessica Weber, public relations director for Professional Bull Riders in Colorado Springs, Colo., an organization owned and operated by bull riders.

"Once you watch one time, you're hooked," Weber says.

The sense of danger heightens the crowd's excitement, says Tammie Hiatt, public relations coordinator for International Professional Rodeo Association. The association, based in Oklahoma City, Okla., was organized in 1957 to give the sport a professional edge.

"A 185-pound man versus a 2,000-pound bull means a lot of action," says Hiatt, who rides a horse in barrel-racing events.

The best part about bull riding is that anybody can watch, and it is easy to understand, Weber says. Points are awarded based on how controlled the ride is, and the person with the most points wins, she says.

Professional Bull Riders also operates a fan club, which has about 3,000 members.

Bull riding is enjoyable for audiences because the athletes take so much pride in the sport, Weber says. After an event, cowboys often spend two or three hours signing autographs and meeting fans, she says.

The animals also are incredible athletes, born and bred to be bucking bulls, Weber says. Some bulls are very much feared, and many have colorful names.

Bull riding is accompanied by its own lingo, Hiatt says. For example, if a bull rider moves forward and is thrown off balance, he has been "jerked down." If the bull spins and the rider falls to the inside, he is said to be "in the well."

It's exciting to watch an outstanding ride, but there always is some risk for the riders, Hiatt says.

"Nobody likes to see anyone get hurt, but that's the chance you take," she says.

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