Hundreds of people got a heavy dose of excitement Saturday night at the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair during an action-packed bull-riding show, sanctioned by the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association.
Twenty-two bull riders competed in the show, each vying for the top prize of $2,500, according to Cindy Scott of Buck Wild Rodeo Company LLC, which put on the event.
Scott said they also had about 23 female barrel-racing riders, and a handful of “little cowboys” that took part in the miniature bull riding and Mutton Bustin competitions, which featured children ages 4 to 7 riding sheep.
“This is the only rodeo that holds mini-bull riding on the East Coast of the United States,” Scott said.
Scott said she was impressed with the crowd that came out for the event. The grandstand next to the Ag Expo track was filled, and many others set up their chairs on the hill on the other side.
“They’re active and the place is packed out,” she said. “We’ve got a great turnout.”
Teresa Kelly of Hagerstown had a prime spot up on the hill. Kelly said she and her husband, Martin, try to come out for the bull riding show every year, and they’ve made it the past four or five years.
“I’ve watched rodeos on TV before, but it’s not like being here in person,” she said. “It’s exciting. It’s great.”
“The very first year they had it ... we liked it, and they had a suggestion box, and we put in there that they should have it every year,” Kelly said. “And it seems like a lot of people must have done that because they did (have it back).”
Bull riders must stay on their steeds for at least eight seconds to register a score, which allows them to advance to the “short-go” final round, Scott said. The riders receive 50 percent of that score while the bulls receive the other half, making the bulls just as important as the riders, she said.
Scott said they had riders from all over the country Saturday, including one that came all the way from Florida.
Gage Gay, a 17-year-old bull rider from Staley, N.C., said he got into the sport when he was just 4 years old, riding sheep and calves like the other men in his family.
“I do it because I love it,” he said. “I like the adrenaline rush. It’s a natural high, I guess you could say. And I’ve been doing it all my life, so it’s just natural to me.”
Gay is a top rider on the SEBRA tour, earning more than $15,000 this year, according to the SEBRA website.
As dangerous as it might be riding an 1,800-pound bucking bull, Gay said he only has had one broken arm in his years of riding.
“You just got to be really strong-minded and not let your nerves get to you,” he said. “And stay healthy. I’ve been pretty fortunate.”
The ring announcers and rodeo clowns in the ring were entertaining the crowd as much as the riders were, too. Scott said that’s the name of the game.
“It’s strictly an entertainment thing,” she said. “Bull riding is getting to be one of the fastest growing sports that people go to. I’ve driven through six hours to watch one bull buck for six seconds. I’ll do that.”
With a full slate of events and competitions, Ag Expo continues through Saturday.