- Paul Cooley
The largest crowd in years filled the rodeo arena to capacity on Friday night to watch professional cowboys and cowgirls compete for $50,000 in prize money as the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department celebrates its 75th consecutive year of bringing PRCA rodeo to Chautauqua County.
The bareback bronc event opened the action with a Canadian cowboy, Carl Bernier, from Weedon, Quebec, posting the only qualified ride of the night with 73.5 points, leaving him far behind the new arena record of 88 points set by Jake Brown, Cleveland, Texas, in Thursday’s performance.
The team ropers had a tough night as only three of the eight teams were able to successfully rope the horns and hind legs of their steer. Kyle Letzelter, Canyon, Texas, and veteran roper Casey Cox, Ballston Spa, New York, posted the second fastest time of the week at 6.5 seconds, but were unable to surpass the 5.2 seconds set on opening night.
In the tie-down roping, Thomas Yorks, Mt. Morris, New York, and three-time First Frontier Circuit champion Tim Naylor, Hancock, Maryland, tied their calves in 14.7 and 16.1 seconds respectively, but their times were not even close to the 9.8 seconds set by Wisconsin cowboy Chance Locken on Thursday.
The fastest time of the week in the steer wrestling was posted by A.J. Williams, New Providence, Pennsylvania, who threw his steer to the dirt in 4.5 seconds for the only qualified time in that event in this third performance.
Two cowboys in the saddle bronc event, Eddie Parlier, Johnson City, Tennessee and Dakota Tempest, Branchport, New York, were given re-rides due to their bronc fouling them against the gate when it opened. However, neither of them could take advantage of the re-ride, leaving Byron Gilliland, Trempealeau, Wisconsin, with the best score of the night at 76.5, just a half point ahead of Kirk Nelson, Branson, Missouri, and Jordan Corrigan, Toddville, Iowa, who each scored 76 points.
Competition was again exceptionally close in the cowgirls’ barrel racing as five of the twelve ladies broke 16 seconds and two were under the 15 second barrier. Jody Stockton, Ballston Spa, New York was fastest at 14.93, followed by Jen Merriman, Potsdam, New York, one-half second behind at 14.98. Theirs were second and third fastest times of the week.
Only one bull rider, Brady Randolph, Wichita, Texas, was successful in staying aboard for the required eight seconds, scoring 77 points. The top score for the first three performances was 80.5 by a New York cowboy, Clark Griswold from Bainbridge, with an 80.5 ride.
The final performance of this historic event opens at 8:00 tonight with the $50,000 in prize money still up for grabs. Winners of each of he seven events will also receive a Montana Siversmiths belt buckle in addition to his or her winnings.
The final day’s festivities include a free rodeo for kids ages 3-8 in the arena at 4:00 where they can dress as cowboys and cowgirls and play rodeo related games in the arena supervised by pro rodeo cowboys and cowgirls with Miss Rodeo New York, Miss Teen Rodeo New York, and Little Miss Rodeo New York greeting the kids.
The midway with more than 20 vendors will open at 3:00 and remain open until a special fireworks display brings this year’s event to a close.
The final chance to enjoy the barbeque beef dinner will begin at 5:00. Head chef Bruce Gustafson and his wife Paula and their staff served 916 dinners on this Friday evening, possibly a new record for the most ever in one night, bringing the total for three evenings to more than 2400 dinners.