Clovis News: Sports

Rodeo has its last ride for '09

In the same week that brought near 100-degree temperatures on a couple days followed by 60s with miserable winds and even a few sprinkles on another, the four-day Clovis Rodeo found cooperative weather for the most part, closing with a glorious Sunday, unofficial record attendance and a fascinating mutton bustin' ride.

This was the 95th edition of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned event -- one of the Top 3 in the state and among the best 15 nationally -- and pink-clad rodeo officials were all smiles and exhausted, yet charging ahead and already gearing up for the biggest one of all, No. 100, in 2014.

"It was a great year, especially not knowing what to expect because of the economy," Clovis Rodeo Association President Mark Thompson said as about 6,500 fans filed out of the arena, completing a rodeo that attracted about 30,000.

"We've had shifting around with sponsors and stuff, but it all worked out really well," Thompson said. "These [volunteers] are so burned out. We'll give them a day off [today] and have a board meeting Tuesday. We'll talk about two things: 2010 and our 100th. We formed an eight-person committee [for the 100th] a year ago, and they're already working on it."

He, like many other rodeo officials, volunteers, competitors and fans, wore pink on "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" day in support of breast cancer research. One dollar from each ticket sold Sunday will be donated to the Marjorie E. Radin Breast Care Center at Clovis Community Medical Center. And about $125,000 in all will be given to charity from the nonprofit rodeo.

Generally, Sunday is a moderate day for attendance, one typically reserved for rodeo die-hards.

But, after 4,000 presale tickets were sold, another approximate 2,500 no doubt responded to the sunshine-graced, low 70-degree weather and arrived for the finals of steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, tie-down roping, girls barrel racing and PRCA bull riding -- that opposed to the Professional Bull Riding Challenger Tour event that launched the rodeo Thursday.

And, while the fans' volume was pumped for the bull riding -- tops for Fresnan Josh Verburg -- they literally came out of their seats for one Wyatt Robinson in clearly the most rousing performance of the day.

This occurred in mutton bustin', the always crowd-pleasing event that has kids between ages 5 and 7 riding sheep sans saddle.

They were bucked within 10 feet of the chute, with one exception -- Wyatt.

The 6-year-old boy from Tollhouse broke the mold and the collective guts of the fans by throwing a boot and holding on for a good 100 feet before losing his grasp in front of the grandstand, where fans exploded.

They would have preferred to do the same for Verburg, a 23-year-old graduate of Washington High and current Cal Poly student. But he was overmatched by a veteran bull of the circuit, Stone Cold, and was tossed in a nonqualifying 2.56 seconds.

"Old, smart bull," he said. "Stuff like that happens and a guy shakes it off and doesn't even worry about it. But when it happens here, something big -- especially a hometown rodeo -- it's kind of hard to."