A capacity crowd filled the stands on the opening performance of the 78th annual Gerry Fire Department’s PRCA rodeo to watch a record number of cowboys and cowgirls whom announcer Greg Simas called the world’s most dedicated athletes as they pay their own expenses, pay an entry fee to compete, and leave with nothing unless they win.
A total of 215 professional cowboys and cowgirls from 24 states as far away as Texas and Oklahoma have entered the week’s competition which pays $50,00 in prize money. Included in that number of entries are six contestants from San Paulo, Brazil
Rodeo has always placed an emphasis on patriotism and faith, and announcer Greg Simas began the evening’s festivities with prayer followed by the National Anthem, and the Grand Entry with all the competitors circling the arena on horseback prior to the start of the competition.
The very physically demanding bareback bronc riding event kicked off the action with all eight cowboys making successful rides. Jason Wilson, Bennington, Vermont, posted the highest score with a 78 point ride . There was a three-way tie for second with brothers Luke and Houston Herbert from College Point, Tennessee, and Brayze Schill, West Columbia, Texas, all scoring 74 points on their broncs.
The ten steer wrestlers, who each paid a $100 entry fee, had little success in throwing their steers to the arena dirt as only two of the ten cowboys posted times. Terek Keller of Fredonia, Pennsylvania, was fastest at 9.2 seconds, with Clay Harp, Jr., Franklinville, New Jersey, just one-tenth of a second behind at 9.3.
Zane Kilgus and his partner Shane Jenkins, both from Watsontown, Pennsylvania, teamed up in the team roping event, roping their steer’s horns and hind legs in what may be an arena record time of 4.7 seconds. The second-place team of two New York cowboys, Robbie Erck and Fred Brunelle, were nearly 10 seconds behind at 13.9. Unfortunately, the other eight teams, who each paid a $300 entry fee, failed in their attempts to win money.
The cowgirl breakaway ropers had a tough time as only two of the ten ladies were able to rope their steer successfully. Christina Brown, Keedysville, Maryland, had the fastest time at 6.5 seconds followed by Kelsey King, Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, at 12.4 seconds.
Six of the thirteen saddle bronc riders had successful rides in very close competition with only eight points separating the six. Ray Hostetler, Campbell, New York, had the top score with 76.5 points aboard Painted Pony Rodeo’s National Finals Rodeo bronc named George’s Bad Cat. Rudy Troyer, Cookville, Tennessee. scored 76 points on his bronc, missing a tie by only one-half point.
Travis Staley traveled across the country from Weatherford, Texas, to take first place in the tie-down roping event, roping and tying his calf in a very fast 10 seconds. Jerry Easler from Jennings, Florida, was nine-tenths of a second behind at 10.9.
The cowgirls barrel racing saw six of the ten girls post times under 16 seconds. Allison Serio, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was fastest at 15.46 seconds while Lauren Wagner, McClure, Pennsylvania and Haley Dewalt, Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, tied for second, just one-hundredth of a second behind at 15.47.
The Painted Pony bulls came out angry, giving the fans a lot of excitement as they tossed all 15 cowboys to the dirt, several of them in quick and dangerous fashion. However, due to the daring of bull fighters Raggin Daley, Jessie Griswald, and Jacob Jackson, who risked their own safety to protect the riders, all the riders escaped serious injury and will be back to ride again.
The rodeo continues tonight, as well as Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with all eight traditional rodeo events. The kitchen crew reports serving about 625 barbecue dinners on opening night and will continue to offer the dinners in the air-conditioned dining room from 5-8 each day through Saturday. The midway with about 20 vendors will be opening at 5 each day.
Military personnel and first responders are reminded of the special price for them tonight. They can be admitted for $10 with a valid ID. These tickets must be purchased at the rodeo office and are limited to the card holder only.
Additional information is available on the rodeo website www.gerryrodeo.org or by phone at 716-985-4847 0r 1-888-985-4847.