HERMISTON - Organizers say the 18th run of the Farm-City Pro Rodeo in Hermiston promises to be the best ever for the award-winning event.
Starting Wednesday and concluding Saturday, the rodeo will begin each night at 7:45 p.m. at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds.
Top among the many changes in the Farm-City this year is the fact that it has been selected by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as one of 12 Wrangler Summer Tour rodeos, where contestants earn points based on their placing in the finals Saturday.
The top 12 contestants in each of seven events at the Farm-City Wednesday through Friday will return for the finals, which will be recorded for telecast in October on the Outdoor Life Network.
The Tour stop is significant because PRCA contestants qualify for the Nationals Finals Rodeo in December only if they complete the season in the top 15 in the world standings, based on money earned. The Summer Tour is a 12 rodeo series that will conclude in Pendleton next month with the top contestants in the series earning the right to ride in the ProRodeo Challenge in Omaha, Neb.
After Hermiston, the Tour will make stops in Caldwell, Idaho, Caldwell, Idaho, Ellensburg, Wash., Puyallup, Wash., and Pendleton.
"It'll be the best group of cowboys we've ever had," Farm-City board president David Bothum said, adding that the stock will likely be the best ever as well.
"The idea is to be the best that you can be," Bothum said.
Living by that mantra, the Farm-City has six times been nominated as top rodeo of the year.
"It's an event that we've had a lot of pride in," board member Jim Michael said. "It takes a very dedicated group to put this on, to put on the kind of quality event that we like. When you get it all done, you kind of swell up and say, 'there's a job well done'."
"It's bigger and better than ever," board member Teresa Courier said.
The Farm-City contestant entry list has always read like a 'Who's Who' of rodeo, but competing rodeos on the same weekend have at times forced some to draw-out because of conflicting schedules.
"This year, they have to come through here to get to the (Pace Picante Challenge)," board member Cyd Bothum said.
Drawing the world's best contestants helps provide the best possible event, board member Jon Gill said.
"I think the best thing is the quality and caliber of the contestants that are entered," Gill said.
He explained that this year, the Farm-City has drawn entries from a greater percentage of the top 15 in each event than ever before.
"Our idea of becoming a Tour rodeo in the first place was to create a draw for the top 15 contest (in the world standings). The evolution of rodeo these days, if you're not a Tour rodeo, you're not going to get those guys. It's definitely the next level."
The event is produced by a volunteer board of directors, who are thankful for the sponsorship support and other donations that many in the Hermiston community provide. That fact is unique among elite rodeos.
"I think we need therapy," Gill said. "Everybody does it because they love it and everybody involved is meticulous at what they do.
"They want to put on an event that the community can see fresh flowers, green grass and no weeds in the arena. It's a quality production."
David Bothum said that no matter what the board asks of individuals, sponsors and other businesses in the community, they jump at the opportunity to help.
His favorite part of being a part of the rodeo board is: "When you come Saturday night and sit at the gate and you see the crowd and the smiles and everybody beginning happy that's the part I like best," David Bothum said.
"The whole community comes together and has a good time."
Courier said that reserved tickets for Friday and Saturday are sold out, but general admission tickets are available.
Tickets can be purchased at various outlets in Umatilla and Morrow Counties, or by calling the rodeo office at 564-8500. Reserved tickets for Wednesday and Thursday are available at RoeMark's in Hermiston.
Each night's performance will be preceded by a mutton bustin' contest.
Mutton Bustin' Line-up
Shandi Britt Echo
Colton Evans Heppner
Blair Brock Hermiston
Hector Arellano Hermiston
Trystin Kurtis Seavert Hermiston
Zachary Adams Hermiston
Rody Hamlin Hermiston
Clayton Carlson Stanfield
Calgary Lane Smith Adams
Preston Pederson Hermiston
Shasta Jundt Hermiston
Kyler Mikami Hermiston
Drew Lunny Pendleton
Kyler Lunny Pendleton
Tyler Chichester Pendleton
Shaw Jerome Pendleton
Hanna McCarty Echo
Dylan Hunter Hermiston
Brady Christiansen Hermiston
Jaden Villa Hermiston
Kelly Ericson Kennewick
Kaden Brocke Middleton, Idaho
Preston Bothum Pendleton
Cody Ernhardt Scapoose
Finals: Top three from Wednesday and Thursday, top four from Friday.