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  • Paul Cooley

2021 Opening Night

“We’re back, bigger and better than ever” were the words of rodeo chairman Tom Atwell as he watched this tiny rural town transform almost overnight into a bustling “city” in preparation for the kickoff tonight of the Gerry Volunteer Fire department’s 76th annual PRCA rodeo after a year’s absence due to the pandemic.

Dozens of pickup trucks, horse trailers, RV’s, and tents fill the rodeo location as approximately 240 professional cowboys and cowgirls from more than 30 states and Canada are arriving. The stock contractor, Painted Pony Championship Rodeo, has transported more than 100 head of outstanding stock via tractor trailer from their ranch in Lake Lucerne, as well as setting up the fences and chute gates.

The smoke is rolling from the pits, filling the air with the aroma of more than 1200 pounds of beef that is being prepared over wood fires for the dinners beginning at 5:00 tonight. The last of the more than 20 vendors are setting up their tents and trailers where they will offer many kinds of food items, souvenirs, and Western wear. About 150 volunteers are scrambling to put the finishing touches on what Atwell says is the best prepared they have ever been for opening night.

Familiar names are back to provide the fans with a top-notch rodeo experience. One of rodeo’s top announcers, Greg Simas, who has performed around the world, will be back in in action from his seat on horseback in the arena to keep the fans informed of the action. Pro rodeo’s most decorated funnyman and specialty act performer, Keith Isley, will be making his second appearance here to entertain the crowds with his humor and trained horses. Bullfighter Phil Hussman is a long-time favorite in Gerry as he again will thrill the fans with his daring moves to protect the cowboys during the bull riding event.

The competition, with $50,000 in prize money, begins at 8:00 tonight and continues nightly through Saturday and features the seven traditional rodeo events – saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, cowgirls’ barrel racing, and bull riding – as well as cowgirls’ breakaway roping for the first time in Gerry. The dinners are served each evening from 5:00-8:00, and the Midway also opens at 5:00.

Special events for the week include a $5.00 admission tonight only for kids ages 3-12 when they bring two non-perishable food items to be distributed to area food banks, a $10 admission on Thursday for military and first responders, a breast cancer awareness night on Saturday where everyone is asked to wear pink with donations going to Roswell Park Cancer Center, and a free kids’ rodeo at 4:00 on Saturday.

Additional information is available at the rodeo website or by phone at (716) 985-4847 or 1-888-985-4847 throughout the week.

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