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Photo by Andy AtkinsonA pro-cowboy at the 2017 Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo gets ready for his throw during steer-roping competitions.

Wild Rogue rodeo kicks off at Expo

Professional bull riding, saddle bronc and bareback riding, steer wrestling, tie-roping, team roping and barrel racing are all part of the thrills at Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo.

Kicking off Thursday, May 31, with events through Saturday, June 2, Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo lands at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Gates open at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday, with the main attraction getting underway at 7 p.m.

Advance tickets are $10 Thursday; $15, $20 for reserved seats, Friday and Saturday; and can be purchased at local Bi-Mart stores, Boot Barn and at wildrogueprorodeo.com. Ticket prices increase by $3 at the gate.

Kids 12 and younger wearing complimentary bandanas from Bi-Mart get in free Thursday; tickets for ages 12 and younger are $10 Friday and Saturday.

The three-day event includes Mutton Bustin’, a sheep-riding competition for aspiring young cowboys and cowgirls, and the Rascal Rodeo at 10 a.m. Saturday, which offers free horseback rides and other fun activities for kids and adults with disabilities. Also look for Patriot Night on Saturday to honor those who have served in U.S. armed forces.

The outdoor Rogue Saloon features closed-circuit, large-screen TVs so thirsty patrons won’t miss any of the rodeo action, and there will be live music and dancing after every show.

Corvallis-based country artist Jackson Michelson will take the stage at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the saloon; Billy Lund and Whiskey Weekend perform Friday; and Fogline will perform Saturday.

Many of this year’s rodeo contestants are ranked in the national Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s top 50 for specific events.

“We’ll feature one of the best lineups of competitors in years,” says Helen Funk, Expo director.

Shane Proctor — ranked 10th for all-around cowboy — is scheduled to compete, as is the No. 1 rodeo barrel racer in the country, Amberleigh Moore.

Barrel racing — the women’s contest — tests the speed and agility of horses and their riders. The cowgirl guides her galloping equine around a cloverleaf pattern of barrels making hairpin turns while trying not to tip any of the barrels.

In addition to Proctor and Moore, Central Point’s Hayes Smith, the current No. 1 in team roping in the PRCA, and Trevor Knowles, No. 1 in steer wrestling, will compete at the rodeo.

Other luminaries include legendary rodeo announcer Will Rasmussen, who will call events backed by instant replay, and rodeo clown JJ Harrison — a five-time title holder of Northwest Clown of the Year.

Harrison says entertainment is the rodeo clown’s primary purpose.

“Anytime you have animals in a show, there will be lulls in the action, so you need a court jester to give the audience something to watch,” he says.

In earlier days, the clown’s primary duty was to distract the bull after it had thrown its rider.

“Unlike horses, bulls come back to get the rider after they have tossed him,” Harrison says. “A bull has to be distracted long enough to give the cowboy a chance to get up and out of the ring. Nowadays, bull fighters — not clowns — distract the bulls.”

Harrison loves his lifestyle, and he believes rodeos play an important role in American culture.

“When you’re in rodeos, you get to travel and meet amazing people,” he says. “It’s also fun to bring a piece of Americana to people all over the U.S. We take the Western way of life — practiced for hundreds of years — and put it into an entertainment format, showcasing the things we do on ranches throughout the year.”

“There are a lot of rough stock and local rodeos out there, but the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo is the only PRCA-sanctioned rodeo in Southern Oregon,” Funk says.

Kids Night, sponsored by Bi-Mart and the Every Child Oregon program, is Thursday. Recognition will be given to foster parents and Department of Human Services caseworkers who help provide homes to children in difficult situations. Kids 12 and younger get in free if they are wearing a complimentary bandana — offered at Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass Bi-Mart stores.

Friday night’s theme is Real Cowboys Wear Pink. In partnership with Providence Medford Medical Center’s Leila J. Einstein Breast Cancer Center, the rodeo will include a presentation designed to increase cancer awareness.

See wildrogueprorodeo.com or call 541-774-8270.

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