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Home > Blog > Smaller North Texas rodeo in spotlight with top athletes and fans in stands

Smaller North Texas rodeo in spotlight with top athletes and fans in stands

During this challenging time when some of the larger rodeos such as the Calgary Stampede in Alberta and the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming have canceled because of coronavirus concerns, the smaller rodeos are riding into the spotlight.

Take the Mesquite Championship Rodeo for example. It’s traditionally a smaller, weekly rodeo that runs from June through August. The rodeo typically draws some world class competitors because it’s in a geographic hotbed for activity.

But when Mesquite kicked off its 63rd consecutive season June 6, there was an influx of accomplished athletes because it was the only rodeo sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association that featured every standard riding and roping event.

“I’m glad that these smaller rodeos are having us, I wish there were more big rodeos going on right now, but we don’t have much choice,” said Michael Otero, a 2019 Wrangler National Finals qualifier from Weatherford who finished in the money in tie-down roping.

PRCA chief executive officer George Taylor said the smaller rodeos can make a difference.

“Our small and medium rodeos always matter for our contestants, ... and this year they may matter even more because the larger cities and the larger rodeos that host them are under different pressures than some of the smaller cities and more remote places,” Taylor said. “But I think it speaks to the strength of the PRCA that has both the big and the small, and they’re all important and they all matter.”

This weekend, PRCA shows are scheduled in smaller communities such as Mesquite, Coleman and Woodward, Oklahoma. All three rodeos will feature world class riders. The Woodward rodeo will be televised on the Cowboy Channel.

In Mesquite last weekend, Otero, who tied for sixth place with a time of 8.6 seconds, competed in the slack performance on Saturday afternoon (June 6) that featured the overflow of competitors who were not part of the main show on Saturday night.

“There were a lot of guys there who were hungry and trying to win,” he said. “You could really feel the intensity.”

Former National Finals qualifier Tiany Schuster of Krum competed Saturday night and clinched the barrel racing title with a time of 15.40. She traveled to Mesquite after finishing in the money earlier at the Lazy E Arena near Oklahoma City.

“It’s exciting to be able to come here,” she said. “There hasn’t been any baseball, basketball or football or volleyball. So, we’re going to play rodeo. The cowboys showed up and the cowboys delivered today.”

BACK TO WORK

Over the past three weekends, PRCA officials strategically returned rodeo personnel to work after being shut down for more than two months because of the pandemic.

Rodeos were held May 22-24 in Cave Creek, Arizona, and May 29-31 at Fort Worth’s Cowtown Coliseum with no fans.

But last weekend, the PRCA began allowing fans as Mesquite opened at 25% capacity with pre-designated seating.

Unlike the previous two weeks, most people who attended the Mesquite Rodeo did not wear a mask and there was no medical screening.

“They just treated it like any other rodeo,” Otero said.

Other North Texas rodeos, such as Cleburne and Gladewater, have canceled. Others have rescheduled, including the Parker County rodeo in Weatherford which has been moved from this weekend to July 8-11.

“Timing couldn’t have worked out any better,” said Travis Wheat, the Mesquite rodeo’s director. “When we first got the notification that everything was shutting down, I thought to myself that we’re going to be right on the bubble. We were just stubborn old cowboys and we just held on and it turns out that we were right, right on the bubble. We knew it was a gamble from the start so we never canceled and turns out it’s going to be OK.”

Stace Smith of Athens, the Mesquite rodeo’s senior stock producer, said the performance last weekend felt like a normal rodeo.

“We’re back live and wild here and I think everybody’s happy to see it that way,” said Smith, who has earned the PRCA’s Stock Contractor of the Year title 11 times. “It looks like a real rodeo except Mesquite actually has some way better contestants than they get sometime. We’re a small rodeo, compared to some rodeos, but everybody knew that this was one of the first things that was going happen in Texas. Everybody was ready to get out to a Texas rodeo.”


A BIGGER OPENING

Last year, Mesquite’s total purse for its opening weekend was $15,048, according to prorodeo.com. But on June 6, the prize money totaled $26,631.

The Mesquite Rodeo is held at an indoor facility that was built in the mid-1980s with luxury sky boxes three stories above the arena floor.

On June 6, fans saw world-class competitors such as two-time world champion Taos Muncy who finished in fourth in saddle bronc riding with a score of 74.

Dustin Boquet, a 2018 NFR qualifier from Athens, clinched the bull riding title at Mesquite with an 88 and finished fifth at a PRCA bull riding show last weekend in Lawton, Oklahoma.

He said he thrived on competing in front of fans.

“I ain’t a big fan of getting on with no fans,” Boquet said. “I kind of like hearing a little bit of cheering.”

In an interview after the June 6 performance in Mesquite, announcer Andy Stewart said the rodeo offered great entertainment.

“Tonight was a great way to kick it off, a lot of talent inside that arena, a lot of gold buckles here and guys just hungry to rope and ride,” said Stewart, who also helped call the action at the 2019 National Finals in Las Vegas.

“In this situation, this was the place to be when you talk about talent. We’ve kicked open the chutes and I just hope it continues to roll forward.”


Read full article at the Fort Worth Star Telegram
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