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For five days each summer, Thunderbird Arena shakes to the tune of bucking broncos and cowboy-clipping bulls.
It’s when cowboy meets livestock head-on, sending heels and Stetsons into the air. Steers are wrestled. Calves are roped. Barrels are raced.
The Kitsap County Fair & Stampede begins Wednesday, continuing through Sunday at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.
“We’ve always had great cowboys, they’ve been top-of-the-line,” said rodeo director Joe Drouin, who spends the entire year planning the event with the help of a rodeo committee and about 30 volunteer wranglers.
Plans for the 2009 version of the county’s largest — and only — professional rodeo are as big as they’ve ever been.
The first four days of the Stampede include traditional events such as bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, team roping and barrel racing. But the rodeo also will feature team roping and barrel racing events that are open only to Kitsap residents, giving local cowboys and cowgirls an opportunity to test their mettle against each other.
“It’s a really good thing for the locals to be able to get into the rodeo,” Drouin said. “It’s gives the rodeo a local flavor.”
Drouin said rodeo-goers also are welcome to watch “slack” — barrel racing and team roping — beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Standard admission tickets are good for entry.
The weekend’s headlining event is the Seminole Hard Rock-sponsored Xtreme Bulls competition, which will be televised on ESPN2 via tape delay at noon Sept. 27 and on ESPN Classic at 9 a.m. Oct. 10 and Nov. 7.
Forty cowboys, including current Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association Xtreme Bulls point leader Steve Woolsey, who has more than $32,000 in earnings this year, are set to compete. The competition is Sunday and begins with the long-go, in which all 40 cowboys ride, continuing into the afternoon with the short-go, in which the top 10 riders from the long-go vie for the championship.
Xtreme Bulls is a PRCA-sanctioned event, meaning money earned goes toward qualification for the National Finals Rodeo, which is in Las Vegas in December.
“Anybody who comes out for Xtreme Bulls will see a minimum of 50 rides,” Drouin said.
The Stampede beat out 700 rodeos to earn the 2008 Remuda Award, as voted on by the PRCA. The award is given annually to the rodeo with the best rough stock. Also a nominee for Rodeo of the Year each of the past your years, the Stampede continues to gain national recognition.
“To be singled out like that is really big,” Drouin said.