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With dust drifting across the arena floor, snot-blowing bulls shook cowboys like tambourines.
The rider of High Roller pierced the brown haze, thudding to the dirt. El Loco’s rider tumbled head first after a two-second ride.
“I think the fans enjoyed it, the cowboys enjoyed it, everybody enjoyed it,” said volunteer Dan Crook, who estimated each of the three performances attracted 1,000 fans. “That’s how I judge whether it was a good rodeo, if everybody had a good time.”
It was the second night of the Thunderbird Pro Benefit Rodeo, which celebrated its fifth anniversary at Thunderbird Arena at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. The belt-tightening action kicked off Friday and continued through the weekend, cinching on Sunday.
The all-volunteer event raises funds for the Seattle-based Northwest Burn Foundation, which has provided resources and support for burn victims since 1982, and Corey’s Day on the Farm, an annual two-day gathering at the Fairgrounds in which hundreds of special needs children experience the “Western way” through horseback riding, hay rides and other farm-related activities.
Thunderbird is the only all-benefit rodeo in the Northwest Pro Rodeo Association and its proceeds are split evenly between the two beneficiaries. Last year, it generated $3,000 for both Corey’s Day on the Farm and NBF.
“It really keeps us going,” said Coleta Corey, who launched Corey’s Day on the Farm with husband Nick in 1968. “It helps us provide some extra things that (the kids) wouldn’t normally get to do. We try to make it really, really special for them.”
Total proceeds for this year, Crook said, have yet to be finalized because revenue from ticket sales, sponsors and other proceed-generators continue to trickle in.
The grand tally will be unveiled later this month.
“We are going to be able to give some money away, let’s put it that way,” Crook said.
On the floor, Friday’s opening-night festivities began with barrel racing — introduced to the rodeo last year — and Cheyenne Allen, of Mabton, Wash., earned a first-place purse of $728.64 with a time of 17.80 seconds.
Bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling and breakaway roping were among the nine events Saturday and Sunday.
J.C. Bean, of Goldendale, Wash., won the bull riding event — and $1,012, the rodeo’s second-largest purse — with a score of 86 on the bull Rock Star. Charlie Baker, of Terrebonne, Ore., placed second with an 82 on Flash Point. Baker won the steer wrestling event in 8.2 seconds.
Redmond’s Ross Hartman rode the horse Kiwi to a score of 83 to win the saddle bronc riding competition, while Kevin Lusk, of Buckley, Wash., took bareback riding with an 85 on Rip City.
In breakaway roping, Jennifer Casey, of Mesa, Wash., posted a time of 2.2 seconds to top Mount Vernon’s Tara Finley, who finished in 2.4. The team roping event went to Jason Stewart (header), of Royal City, Wash., who scored a time of 6.2 seconds, and Eugene’s Jaye Kuebler (heeler), who finished in 6.6.
Shane Crossley, of Hermiston, Ore., won the tie down roping event in 8.6 seconds to edge Terrebone’s Shane Erickson (8.8).
“It went very well,” Crook said of the competition on the floor. “We had no complaints from any of the judges or cowboys.”