NWSS first Saturday was super!
The schedule read “Super Saturday Rodeo” on the first weekend of the 2012 National Western Stock Show.
They weren’t kidding.
The Colorado Rodeo Champions vs Cinch’s World Team jam-packed three rodeo performances into one day with top contestants in the sport vying for $100,000 in total prize money and the chance to earn a title of national champion. The format of the event was completely different from a typical rodeo and that’s just how NWSS organizers drew it up. They envisioned high octane action and crowd pleasing excitement and they got it in spades.
“It’s a good way to kick off the stock show,” described a pleased NWSS VP of Operations, Marvin Witt, during that first Saturday. “It’s a weekend where a lot of the champions are coming off the NFR. This is the first time out (and) they get to do it for free; they’re not paying an entry fee. They’re winning good money and get to ride top quality stock.”
One hundred contestants invited by NWSS officials were equally divided into five events (bareback, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding) and separated into two teams. The Colorado Rodeo Champions team consisted of cowboys and cowgirls who won rodeos in the state of Colorado during 2011. In attendance was top-notch bareback rider Ryan Gray, who won the Pueblo rodeo; world champion steer wrestler Luke Branquinho, who won in Greeley; saddle bronc champ Cody Wright, who earned a buckle in Pueblo; Kelly Yates, who won Colorado Springs and bull rider Steve Woolsey, who also won in Pueblo. “Wild Card” entries were also on the Colorado team that consisted of Mountain States Circuit contestants NWSS officials knew local fans would want to see. Names like Kelly Timberman, Wade Sumpter, Tate Owen, Sammi Bessert and Tyler Smith joined the team that would be going up against the Cinch World Team, which boasted contestants like Kaycee Feild, Dean Gorsuch, Jesse Bail, Jill Moody and Seth Glause.
The different format called for the Colorado team to perform at 11:00 a.m., with the top four in each event moving to the final round at 8:00 p.m. (along with picking up checks for placing). The Cinch World Team then performed at 3:30 p.m., and the top four in each event also moved on to face off against the Colorado champs at 8:00 p.m. The 8:00 p.m. rodeo squared the teams off against each other, but the action wasn’t finished just yet. At the end of the events, the top finisher per team moved on to a head-to-head match up with a chance to earn $10,000 for winning it all.
Full of rock and roll, lasers, fireworks and flames during contestant introductions and announcements of winners, it was a wonder the roof of the Denver Coliseum stayed in place throughout the day. The large crowds were all enthusiastic, but the decibel level during the 8:00 p.m. finale was in a league of its own. Adding more drama were contestant interviews held on the arena floor that boasted storylines straight from Hollywood. If it wasn’t bareback cowboy Kelly Timberman riding with a separated pelvis so he could win money to help pay for his wife’s back surgery, it was Cody Wright competing against two younger brothers in the saddle bronc final or even Florida barrel racer Randa Kellogg, who not only drove 1,600 miles on short notice because she was a last minute fill-in, but ended up winning it all. Each story ramped the audience louder as they played out before their very eyes. While the crowd loved it, it was plain to see the contestants enjoyed themselves, as well.
“It was pretty cool and definitely a neat deal,” said Straws Milan, a Canadian steer wrestler, who won the head-to-head match up and more than $10,000 in one day. “We were (treated like) superstars, for sure. You don’t usually see that at rodeos too often. It was great.”
“When everybody is screaming and excited like that, it’s hard not get your heart pumping and it gets me jacked, I know,” described Utah bull rider Steve Woolsey, who pocketed more than $10,000 of his own after riding some of the best bulls in the business. “The fans were into it and it was a little more than just a regular run of the mill rodeo.”
Another feature that pleased both the crowd and contestants was a brilliant concept brought in by NWSS organizers. Before the head-to-head matchups at the end of the final rodeo, both team leaders in each event were ushered into the arena and interviewed about choosing the order of performance as well as the livestock they wanted to ride. It was a chance to get to know the contestants better, as well as hear their thoughts on why they chose that particular animal or reason for choosing the order of ride.
“They get to pick their stock,” said Witt about the new wrinkle. “The crowd gets to see it. Folks in the stands will see the horse they’re going to ride or the bull they’re going to ride at the same time they see them. (The animals) will go around the arena and then they’ll go back in the production area and go back in the chutes. And the (contestants) will tell you why they picked that particular animal.”
“To make the finals and get to pick your animal, that was just awesome,” enthused Kelly Timberman, who left Denver with more than $10,000 in his pocket to help pay for his wife’s surgery. Timberman chose first and picked Calgary Stampede’s Stampede Warrior because he’d always wanted to ride him. “I don’t usually draw that good, especially in a finals. And when I get to pick the best horse … yeah, that was cool.”
Cody Wright liked choosing the best animal, as well. Wright chose Burch Rodeo’s Lunatic Fringe “because they win everything on him.” True to its reputation, the saddle bronc cowboy pocketed $10,000 after a thrilling 92-point ride.
“The icing on the cake for me was I never had the horse before,” said Wright a few days later. “That’s a super nice horse and feels really good. It just jumps and kicks and it’s real showy and lets you try to put the best ride you can on it.”
The NWSS’ Super Saturday Rodeos sounded like they were icing on the cake to everyone involved.
“It was great,” said Diann Giffin, a barrel racer from Falcon, Colo., who posted the second fastest time (15.25 seconds) during the three rodeos. “Especially being from Colorado, it was a lot of fun. I remember back when I was trying to fill my (rodeo) permit thinking, I just want to be able to run at Denver. I was very excited.”
“I loved it,” said Timberman about the format. “It’s different and its jam packed and its exciting. It was a great concept (and) it was just fun how they set it up. They just played it up to the crowd and made it exciting. The way the crowd stood up from the morning until tonight, I really think this was a success. I bet you the next time they decide to do this it will be a sold out crowd.”
“It exceeded our expectations,” said a grinning Witt immediately after Saturday’s conclusion. “We couldn’t have asked for it to go any better during its first year. This is something that’s going to take off,” he added about the team concept, head-to-head matchups and contestant’s choosing their stock. “This is probably going to be the new face of rodeo.”
Super exciting. Super contestants. Super livestock. It all added up to Super Saturday Rodeo at the NWSS.
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