Steven Peebles has a vast collection of belt buckles from various rodeos all over the United States and Canada. He has a handful from the Columbia River Circuit Finals, and if one is good, more is better.
“I have won it quite a few years,” the Redmond bareback rider said. “I can’t complain, that’s for sure. I always look forward to the circuit finals. Battle the three horses and see how much I can earn. Just go out and have some fun.”
The CRC Finals begin Friday and run through Sunday at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Action begins the first two nights at 7 p.m., while Sunday’s round begins at 1 p.m.
While the event has been held for years in Central Oregon, CRC president Rowdy Barry said the move to Yakima was a necessity.
“It seems more centrally located for fans,” he said. “We loved the venue in Central Oregon, but economically, it wasn’t working out there. That’s what brought us to Yakima. Ticket sales just aren’t what they used to be.”
The event also moved from November to January to avoid going up against other events.
“You have the NFR, the PBR, the Canadian finals, the Indian finals, hunting and football playoffs,” Barry said. “No matter where you are, it's a tough sell. It’s tough on the cowboys this time of year keeping their horses up.”
One benefit of the CRC Finals being in January, is the money earned goes toward their 2019 earnings, as does the winnings from the RAM National Circuit Finals.
“The money goes toward world standings, and for a circuit guy, it gives him a better chance to make it to the NFR,” Barry said.
The winner and the average winner of each event will advance to the RAM Circuit Finals from March 21-24 in Kissimmee, Florida, along with competitors from the 12 other circuits.
The CRC steer ropers held their event Nov. 10 in Athena, with Tom Sorey of Pendleton winning the average with a time of 42.9 seconds on three head. He, and his oldest son Pake, advanced to the RAM Nationals Circuit Finals in Torrington, Wyoming, in April (dates have not been announced).
Tom Sorey will be relegated to cheerleader for his son after having shoulder surgery in December.
Peebles, 29, is excited to get back to work this weekend, and hopes to advance to Florida. He leads the CRC bareback standings with $19,729, while Austin Foss of Terrebonne is second ($12,426) and Kevin Lusk of Ellensburg third ($8,301).
“We’ve been going all season long, then there is a break. It gets a little lonely,” said Peebles, who will ride Classic Moon on Friday night. “You get to the finals and you get to see your buddies. I have more friends on the road than I do at home.”
Terrebonne cowboys Jordan Spears and Russell Cardoza are in a battle for the CRC all-around title. Spears leads with $21,600.32. Less an $1,900 separates the two.
“We are pretty close,” said Spears, who will compete in bull riding this weekend. “We are both competitors and we will be happy if either of us wins. I have won the circuit finals once before. I have a good bull (Party Boy) in the first round. I’m going to try and win the bulls, and maybe both.”
Spears was enjoying a few snowboarding runs at Mount Bachelor on Wednesday, which he says is a good workout and helps with his balance.
“I haven’t really lost a step,” Spears said of taking a few weeks off. “There’s been a lot of little bull riding events. I just have to keep going. It can pay pretty well. You keep winning, the prizes last longer than the memories. You don’t want to go home second.”
Spears is second to Roscoe Jarboe of New Plymouth, Idaho, in the bull riding standings — trailing by just $204.62. Both have earned more than $25,000.
Cardoza, 32, will compete in his first rodeo since the Pendleton Round-Up.
"I had a new hip put in Nov. 6," Cardoza said. "Since Pendleton, I was on the couch. I fractured it and there was no way it was going to get better with what was wrong with it. I was on a horse three weeks after my surgery. I'm ready to get up there and win. I've been roping every day."
Cardoza will team rope this weekend with Kolton Schmidt of Barrhead, Alberta. Cardoza, the heeler, has earned $16,034 in the event at CRC rodeos.
"I didn't rope with him all year," Cardoza said. "A guy I roped with, we weren't in the same circuit. We just ended up pairing up this weekend. I know Kolton, we're friends. It will be good."