The bulls were bucking, the beers kept pouring and the standing-room only crowd was a rambunctious bunch as the ivory white full moon draped Thursday’s opening night of the 102nd annual Clovis Rodeo.
The busy weekend got started with the Professional Bull Riders’ Touring Pro Division event before country music singer Jerrod Niemann took over the arena for his concert.
It’s a full slate of events that, over the last few years, has pushed the Clovis Rodeo into one of the top 10 rodeos in the country, according to arena director John Growney.
In the years leading up to the Clovis Rodeo’s 100th anniversary in 2014, the event was a top-40 rodeo, Growney said. But with planning and build-up to the centennial bash that drew 10,000-plus every day of the weekend to Old Town Clovis, the rodeo hasn’t stagnated one bit.
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“The crowds are getting bigger – they’re getting more fun and creating an atmosphere that makes you want to come back,” Growney said.
Henry Smith, 37, admitted he isn’t “much of a cowboy,” but he likes to go for the fun vibes, delicious tri-tip sandwiches and great bull riding.
“It’s an awesome time. The rodeo isn’t your everyday sport,” Smith said. “Seeing these giant bulls up close and the cowboys getting thrown off is exciting. ... And the beers are good, too.”
Bull rider Jonathan Perez of Madera opened the action and lasted the full eight seconds in the first run to reach the finals.
However, it was New Zealand’s Fraser Babbington who took home the $12,000 grand prize, winning with 87.5 points atop the Wild Eyes.
The cowboy who got the most cheers was Brant Atwood, who got his right hand stuck in the ropes after being knocked off Radio Active. Atwood was dragged 20 yards before falling loose and bouncing back to his feet.
The rodeo continues Friday with the girls barrel event slack at 9 a.m. The PRCA rodeo starts at 5 p.m. followed by a concert with Locash✔.
Saturday starts with a parade at 9:30 a.m. before the rodeo at 2 p.m. The rodeo concludes Sunday with gold card team roping at 9 a.m., a special kids rodeo at 11:45 and the rodeo finals at 2 p.m.