Almost all the top cowboys and cowgirls in the Northwest and a good sprinkling of the best in the country will be in town this weekend for the Spokane Interstate Fair and Rodeo.
Plus about every Montanan that can ride a horse or thinks he can ride a bull.
The three-day Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event has a new twist this year. Besides being a Columbia River Circuit rodeo, it has been co-approved by the Montana Circuit and the Mountain States Circuit (Wyoming and Colorado) to add another stop in their schedules.
That’s why Spokane has many more entries – 199 last year, 316 this year – than usual, with most coming from Montana.
The rodeo, with Corey and Horst Rodeo Co. of Moses Lake providing the stock, runs Friday through Sunday at the Fairgrounds, with each performance beginning at 6:45 p.m.
Bareback riding has become the marquee event for area rodeo fans, with Ryan Gray of Cheney sitting fourth in the national standings, Rowdy Buechner of Sandpoint 13th nationally and second in the Columbia River Circuit, and Mt. Spokane graduate Andy Bolich leading the Montana circuit.
Buechner and Bolich are competing on Friday, but Gray has returned to school at Texas Tech and is not traveling north.
Gray’s absence doesn’t diminish the event. Bobby Mote of Redmond, Ore., highlights Sunday’s performance. The former world champion leads the CRC and is sixth nationally. Andy Martinez, who is second in the world, has also entered that day, along with four others in the top 20.
That’s also a big day for Buechner because Sean Culver of Grandview, Wash., No. 3 on the circuit, and Forest Bramwell of Pogosa Springs, Colo., are also up. Culver has a good draw, matching up with Showtime, the horse that carried Larry Sandvick of Billings to a 78 to tie Matt Weishoff for the top spot last year.
The influx of Montanans is also a boon for fans of bull riding. Each performance has 15 or 16 bull riders entered, with defending champion Clayton Foltyn of El Campo, Texas, who is 13th nationally, up on Friday.
Barrel racing also features many national contenders, including national leader Linda Vick of Hesperia, Calif., circuit leader Barbra West of Oak Harbor, Wash., and Cindy Woods of Sherwood, Ore., on Friday.
Cody DeMoss of Crowville, La., second in the world, is entered in saddle bronc riding on Sunday, and in an interesting twist is paired with Mote for team roping. Ryan Mapston of Geyser, Mont., fourth nationally, is also up on Sunday. Sam McKenzie, the No. 2 bronc rider on the CRC, is up on Friday trying to close the gap on Kayle Gray, who is also at school in Texas.
Jeb Knox of Prosser, Wash., and Randy Jones of Eagle Point, Ore., tied for the saddle bronc title last year. DeMoss has drawn Miss Naomi, the horse Knox scored an 80 on last year.
Team roping is big on Saturday, with circuit leaders Richard Eiguren of Jordan Valley, Ore., and Bucky Campbell of Benton City, Wash., up, along with Mike Fuller of Clarkston, who is third in heading, and Shane Crosley of Hermiston, Ore., who is second in heeling. A top team on Sunday has a pair of former world champions teaming up in header Turtle Powell of Alpine, Texas, and Mike Beers of Powell Butte, Ore.
Stran Smith of Childress, Texas, the No. 2 tie down calf roper nationally, is entered on Friday, and Brad Goodrich of Hermiston, the circuit leader, and runner-up Seth Hopper of Stanfield, Ore., are up on Saturday.
Many of the national and Columbia River cowboys will be racing around to compete in the Puyallup Rodeo and Lewiston Roundup and will stick around for the Pendleton Roundup, which begins on Wednesday.
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