By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer
An increase in competitors, partially thanks to a new venue, has Curry County Mounted Patrol members excited about the event they sponsor every year. And that’s despite the 39th annual Pioneer Days Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Rodeo moving away from the facility that bears the group’s name.
This is the first year for the Pioneer Day’s rodeo at the indoor Curry County Special Events Center. The Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena was the previous home for the event.
Mounted Patrol President Richard Hadley may wax sentimental about the feel of an outdoor rodeo, but he also believes the new structure has helped lead to a big increase in this year’s competitors.
And that’s a good enough reason to be happy about the rodeo, which begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We’re excited about having the first pro rodeo they’re going to have in there. We’ve really got a good group of contestants,” Hadley said. “We generally have around 320; this year, we have around 385 contestants. Our entries are up, and we have some good, well-known cowboys coming.”
Hadley thinks a lower gasoline price has increased travel among PRCA regulars. But Hadley also thinks that some of the competitors got a look at the new Special Events Center a couple of months ago and liked what they saw.
“I think some who were here during Joe’s Boot Shop’s calf-roping saw the new venue and word’s kind of gotten around,” Hadley said. “They know they won’t have to fight the weather when they come here now and they can all have an equal run all three nights.”
The top names in this year’ PRCA rodeo include Texan Trevor Brazile, who’s the defending all-around champ and ranked second in the current standings. Brazile is set to compete in tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping. Stran Smith of Childress, Texas, won the ‘08 championship in tie-down roping and will be part of the Clovis rodeo.
Also in tie-down are Fred Whitfield and Josh Peek, both former world champs in that event.
“We’ve got a slew of world champions, or ex-world champions coming,” said Bob Lacy of the Mounted Patrol.
As he did last year, Texico’s L.J. Jenkins will take a break from his spot on the Professional Bullriders tour and compete Thursday night. Last year, Jenkins finished second in the Pioneer Days rodeo in his specialty.
In barrel racing, Farwell’s Cassie Moseley will also compete in this year’s rodeo. Moseley finished the 2008 season in fourth place.
Mosely will be part of a large group of contestants late Thursday night in what is known as the “slack.”