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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAustin Foss from Terrebonne takes his turn competing in bareback riding at the Jackson County Expo Thursday evening during the Wild Pro Rodeo.

Wild Rogue Rodeo ready to ride

CENTRAL POINT — While the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo has grown by leaps and bounds since it began in 1990, the event often billed as the “biggest little rodeo of the West" somehow keeps getting even better.

Eagle Point resident Donna Jones could hardly wait Thursday for the show to start as she helped prepare for the first big night of this year’s rodeo.

An admitted rodeo buff, Jones said she’s loved the rodeo for as long as she could remember, having raised or supported her own share of horse-loving kids and volunteered for rodeo-related events dating back as far as the legendary 100-point bull ride by Wade Leslie in 1991.

Boasting a full roster for all seven events this year, the weekend’s rodeo will highlight the skills of top competitors in everything from barrel racing and team roping to bull riding. Quick to rattle off the names to get excited for this year, Jones said she wasn’t sure which event she was more eager to watch.

“I literally just can’t wait,” she said.

Some of the most renowned rodeo athletes to compete for the more than $74,000 in prize money this weekend include Shane Proctor — ranked 10th for all-around cowboy – and Amberleigh Moore, currently the top-ranked barrel racer in the U.S.

Other athletes include Dakota Eldridge, a top-10 ranked cowboy for tie-down roping and contender for steer wrestling and Steve and David Peebles, internationally known bareback riders.

Local cowboy Hayes Smith, of Central Point, will compete in team roping while Eagle Point’s own Angie Ballard will show off her barrel racing skills.

“There are so many names to watch for,” Jones said.

“It’s a great event and it gets better every year.”

Expo Director Helen Funk said while bull riding is a big draw to the rodeo, most locals have no idea about the level of talent that shows up for Southern Oregon’s only rodeo each year.

“Most rodeo goers get really excited to see the bull riding. They don’t realize the caliber of cowboys and cowgirls who visit tiny Central Point, Oregon, but there is a small population of driven rodeo followers,” Funk said.

“Cowboys who will be here this weekend are going to get points that are going to put them in the final running for the National Finals Rodeo.”

Even better than national rankings, for local rodeo fans, would be another record setting event. While there will be plenty to watch this weekend among the seven events, Jones said there will still be ample time excitement of having the only 100-point bull ride in the history of rodeo is tough not to boast about.

And, yes, she was there.

“With the number of quality athletes on hand this weekend, anything could happen. Gosh, when we got that 100-point ride, the big world of rodeo was almost mad at us. I’m sure they were hoping the 100-point ride could be saved for some important place like Reno or Denver or Fort Worth,” Jones said, recounting the excitement of seeing Leslie hang onto the infamous Wolfman Skoal on Oct. 26, 1991.

“It was a thunderous crowd. When he got to eight seconds, the crowd went wild, then it seemed like forever while we waited for the scores. The announcer was speechless. They finally said, ‘Well, folks, we’ve just made history.”

While the perfect ride might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Jones said she’s prepared for a large crowd and some top-notch rodeo — and maybe a second-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I’m always excited for the rodeo. They just do such a great job and it’s such a high-caliber event,” she said.

“And obviously we would really love to have another history-making night here again. With the athletes we have this weekend, it’s very possible!”

Advance tickets for Friday and Saturday can be purchased for $15 ($20 reserved) at local Bi-Mart stores, Boot Barn and, online at wildrogueprorodeo.com. Ticket prices increase by $3 at the gate.

Rodeo events kick off at 6 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday. Main attractions get underway around 7 p.m.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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