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  • Paul Cooley


The judges for the 72nd Gerry Fire Department’s annual rodeo have submitted their report to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in Colorado Springs and have given the rodeo very high marks. Head judge Wayde Ellsworth’s report included these comments: “The rodeo committee did an excellent job on ground preparations”; “Committee seems to have covered everything from parking to production of the show”; “This is a very good rodeo to attend”.

Ellsworth, who hails from Hudson Falls, New York, has been coming to Gerry for more than 30 years, first as a competitor in tie-down roping and steer wrestling, and now as a judge. He works more than 80 rodeo performances a year across the country and rates the Gerry event as one of his favorites, adding this rodeo is as good as any in the country. He along with this year’s fellow judges, Roger Walter and Raul Rodrieguez, are among the 150 certified judges nationwide and are assigned by the PRCA after undergoing extensive training which must be updated every two years.

Their job is similar to that of a referee or umpire, and most rodeo fans are acquainted with their scoring in the rough stock events  (saddle bronc, bareback, and bull riding) as well as their timing in the timed events, but they numerous have additional responsibilities. They must arrive several hours prior to the performance to inspect the arena, check on the welfare of the animals, and “draw” the animals for each competitor. They have the authority to disqualify any competitor who mistreats an animal or to even cancel a rodeo performance if the animals are not being treated properly.

Ellsworth, who shoes horses when he is not working as a judge, says the toughest part of his job is scoring the rough stock events as each of the two judges’ score is based one half on the performance of the cowboy and the other half on how well the horse or bull performs. Their scores are then combined, with 100 being a perfect score. Because the score is somewhat subjective, he says contestants sometimes complain but usually accept the score after he explains his reasons.

Ellsworth says he loves what he does and plans to continue working the rodeo circuit as long as it is fun for him. He must apply to PRCA headquarters for assignment to rodeos he wants to work, and those assignments are given out based on a judge’s seniority and ability. Even though he is in the arena with the animals, his only serious injury came when a barrel racer entered the arena too early and her horse ran him over. He added that he has had to climb the arena fence on numerous occasions.

Gerry rodeo chairman Tom Atwell says the report of the judges just confirms the excellent work by members of the fire department and the many volunteers who make the rodeo possible. His committee is already making plans for the 73rd consecutive rodeo, which is scheduled for four performances, August 2-5, next summer. Painted Pony Rodeo Company will again be the stock contractor. Additional information is available on the rodeo website

Photo: Veteran rodeo judge Wayde Ellsworth takes a quick coffee break from his many duties at this summer’s 72nd annual Gerry rodeo.

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