Thedford Bull Fest tough go but going strong
On Friday, July 25, 2008 they’ll be bucking again under the lights at the Thomas County Fairgrounds for the 3rd Annual Thedford (NE) Bull Fest.
This year’s event is expected to be as successful as the 2nd Annual which featured bull riders from as far away as Louisiana and New Mexico and top performing bulls rated at the PBR level. L.J. Jenkins, who is currently ranked in the top five riders of the Built Ford Tough PBR Standings, won last year’s Thedford Bull Fest. With over 30 bull riders entered only the top 10 had a chance to ride for the prize money, a bronze by the late Glen Gier and a buckle.
So how does such a small amateur bull riding event come up with such great talent? It’s timing, location and hooking up with the right guys. V Lazy S Bull Riding Productions of Tryon, NE were the right guys and with PBR events in Cheyenne and Hastings, scheduled on either side of the Bull Fest, Thedford is a convenient stop-over for both stock contractors and bull riders. This year’s event will also feature Rob Smets, World Champion PRCA and PBR bullfighter, to help announce and to show the crowd a bit more about the sport of bull riding.
Sounds pretty impressive, for a little ‘ol bull ride. It is. It’s even more impressive when you know the idea was cooked-up several years ago by three 20-something year-old bull riding friends who thought it would be a great benefit to Thomas County to hold a bull riding during the county fair. Josh Call, Royce Jennings, and Andrew Soucie met on the bull riding road. Real cowboys in the Sandhills during the week, on the weekends they were off to as many events as they could squeeze in and still make it back to work by Monday morning.
“Bull riding events take a lot of work and putting one together in the middle of the Sandhills of Nebraska, an hour or so away from a traffic light in any direction is just plain tough,” Royce says. “Tough to attract bull riders, tough to bring in good bucking bulls, tough to find sponsors and tough to convince folks to drive into town on Friday night for the show.”
But tough is what these three friends are all about. Together with volunteers from the community, they put up bucking chutes, built back pens, borrowed a huge set of bleachers from the high school football field, set up the sound stage and roped off the “Beer Garden.” They hired stock contractors, bull fighters and announcers; found sponsors, printed programs, sold tickets and came up a bronze, buckle and prize money that would attract top quality bull riders.
Besides a lot of hard work, the friends found out just how expensive this little idea could be. There are the obvious expenses like the bucking bulls, facilities, permits and programs. But there are also a number of behind the scenes expenses from back pen help to run the bulls through the chutes, clean-up crews, a quality sound system and even the cost of merchandise to throw into the crowd. According to Josh Call, “It’s not a money maker by any means but in the end it’s one heck of a good time.”
Thedford Bull Fest isn’t your average amateur bull ride. It’s a great show.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News