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Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo strikes gold in 2022

Colorado Springs rodeo pays out million dollar purse by hosting inaugural NFR Open

From 1858 to 1861, approximately 100,000 people rushed to the Pikes Peak region in search of gold. The motto “Pikes Peak or Bust” was coined as prospectors would know they were close when they first caught a glimpse of the iconic peak. Little did those prospectors know that 160 years later, people would still be heading to “Pikes Peak or Bust” and striking gold when they arrived.

California tie down roper Tyler Santos took advantage of the field entering Saturday night's semi-final round with a clean slate and took home the national champion title by winning both the semi-final and then the Gold Buckle Round. In this image, Santos stopped the timer in 7.9 seconds to win the semi-final round by a half-second and advance to the sudden death Gold Buckle Round.

The inaugural “NFR Open powered by RAM” was held at 2022’s Cinch Jeans Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo from July 13-16. What used to be called the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo was moved from Kissimmee, Fla., to the more centrally located Colorado Springs, Colo., and renamed the NFR Open. According to the PRCA, it is the most prestigious rodeo under the PRCA circuit system and features two contestants in each event from each of the 12 U.S. circuits, plus Canada, which brings more than 200 contestants to compete over five rounds in the prestigious rodeo. With such an important rodeo, changing locations was a significant move.

Brand new circuit national champions held up their trophy buckles as they were introduced to the big crowd at the conclusion of Saturday night's Gold Buckle Round of the 2022 Pikes Peak or Bust NFR Open. The inaugural NFR Open took the place of the previously named National Circuit Finals Rodeo that used to be held in Fla. The prestigious rodeo made the move to Colorado Springs and the transition appears to have been positive for all involved.

“For the PRCA to choose us to host the NFR Open was a huge honor,” said Dan Ferguson, Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Board president. Ferguson noted the advantage of Pikes Peak or Bust’s close location to the PRCA headquarters and ProRodeo Hall of Fame, its more central access for contestants throughout the country and from Canada, and its championship style format from being a Cinch sponsored rodeo that would smoothly transition to the NFR Open’s similar format.



“There were a lot of things in our favor,” said Ferguson about meeting the needs of the PRCA to hold their circuit championship rodeo. “They were looking for an established rodeo that had a good fan base and the beauty for us is that we really didn’t have to change our rodeo to accommodate their format. There was a lot of strong competition,” Ferguson added. “It is tremendous to be able to match up with them.”

The 2022 Pikes Peak or Bust NFR Open rodeo was reported to be a sell out of the 6,500-seat Norris Penrose Arena for all five performances over its four-day run from July 13-16, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. This image of the packed north stands for Saturday night's Semi-Final and sudden death Gold Buckle Rounds of the million dollar rodeo show how well the area supported this year's event. The inaugural NFR Open takes the place of the Dodge RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo that was previously held in Kissimmee, Fla., and the Colorado Springs community turned out in force to embrace its move to their city.

BIG MONEY, BIG CROWDS



With a million dollar total payout up for grabs by contestants, livestock and other PRCA members, the top animal and rodeo athlete talent in the sport showed up to compete in front of sold out crowds at the 6,500-seat Norris Penrose Event Center. As Ferguson mentioned, those big crowds were one factor in helping the PRCA choose the Colorado Springs event to host the high-profile rodeo.

Texas breakaway roper Martha Angelone was the big winner of the inaugural NFR Open powered by RAM at the 2022 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs. Not only did she earn the national champion title with this 3.0-second effort in the Gold Buckle Round; she also took home the RAM Top Gun Award as the high money winner by earning $25,765 for her efforts over the four-day rodeo. Attached to that Top Gun designation was the prize of a voucher good for a brand new Dodge RAM truck.

“We sold out last year for all practical purposes,” Ferguson noted. “Since 2019, our performances have been pretty well maxed out and we were an absolute sell-out this year. The fans really respond to that championship style format.”

“One of the reasons the PRCA wanted to move it here is because Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo already had sellout crowds for five performances,” agreed Kirsten Vold of Vold Rodeo Company, one of the most decorated and respected stock contracting companies in the sport. Vold Rodeo Company has been the stock contractor in the Colorado Springs venue for nearly 50 years, and Vold was the lead stock contractor or “chute boss” of the 17 total stock contractors on hand for the NFR Open.

With the format of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo's NFR Open giving all the competitors a clean slate at the start of the Semi-Final Round and the following sudden death Gold Buckle Round, Alabama steer wrestler Kyle Irwin took full advantage by notching the top scores in both those high-stakes rounds to win the national champion title and a big payday at the million dollar rodeo in Colorado Springs.

“It was a great venue to move to, to locate to, because they already had the fan base,” Vold continued while discussing that fan base’s familiarity and enthusiasm for the championship style format that Pikes Peak or Bust had already been running. “It was a very easy transition as far as that goes. We didn’t have to shorten the RAM Circuit Finals from what it has been and we didn’t need to add any performances in the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. It just worked out. Some of the things were close enough alike that it was an easy transition.”

Checking details in Saturday evening's light rain, Kirsten Vold (standing in blue shirt and black hat) of the highly decorated Vold Rodeo Company was the Chute Boss or lead stock contractor for the 2022 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo's NFR Open in Colorado Springs. Vold coordinated with 16 other stock contractors who brought animals to the million dollar rodeo, ensuring the event kept its pace and the established local fanbase was pleased with the new product of the high profile NFR Open. "Anytime you get to work alongside your colleagues ... that is always an enjoyable experience," said Vold, whose company has a long association with the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.

A crowd pleasing portion of the championship format was the high pressure final that determined the national circuit champions. The top eight contestants in each event qualified over two rounds of previous action to move ahead into Saturday night’s semi-final round. In that round, all the contestants started with a clean slate and the top four scores or times then moved ahead with a clean slate again into a sudden death round where the winner in each event would earn the title of national champion. The NFR Open called that sudden death round the Gold Buckle Round. It seems gold and Pikes Peak just go hand in hand.

Idaho saddle bronc competitor Kade Bruno celebrates with the crowd immediately after an impressive ride aboard a soaring bronc named All or Nothin during the championship Gold Buckle Round of the 2022 Pikes Peak or Bust's inaugural NFR Open powered by RAM. When the score of 90 points eventually flashed on the scoreboard, Bruno had won the Gold Buckle Round and the title of saddle bronc national champion.

MONEY AND PRIZES

True to its name, winners of the Gold Buckle Round dug up riches that would also count towards world standings and earning a possible spot at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. On top of the money, each winner also received a four seater Polaris vehicle, a trophy saddle and a Montana Silversmith buckle. The high dollar earner of the rodeo, called the RAM Top Gun, was breakaway roper Martha Angelone, who took home an event-best $25,765. As a result of earning the RAM Top Gun Award, Angelone was given a voucher for a new RAM truck. The prize money and prizes handed out were reminders to Saturday night’s sold out crowd of the high status of the NFR Open.

A PRCA judge was in great position to watch Kade Bruno's high-flying ride aboard All or Nothin in the sudden death Gold Buckle Round of the inaugural NFR Open at 2022's Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs. Both judges were impressed enough to award the ride 90 points, which earned Bruno the win in the championship round and secured the Idaho competitor the saddle bronc national champion title, along with a big payday, a Polaris vehicle, a trophy saddle and a silver buckle.

Once the dust settled on Saturday night’s Gold Buckle Round, organizers of the historic Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo felt the move into hosting the high-profile rodeo went well.

“You know, it probably could not have gone better,” said Ferguson. “Everybody has been really positive. Our fans were pleased with the new additions and they loved the rodeo. Our facility handled it quite well and I think it showed really well. I think it was a resounding success.”

With the NFR Open bringing its elite stature, Gold Buckle Round, and million dollar purse to an already iconic regional rodeo like Pikes Peak or Bust, it is easy to look at the real Pikes Peak towering near Colorado Springs and quote Mark Twain: “There’s gold in them thar hills.”

Blake Hirdes and Dalton Pearce roped the quickest time of the sudden death Gold Buckle Round to earn the title of Team Roping National Champions at the 2022 Pikes Peak or Bust NFR Open on Saturday July 16, 2022. The inaugural NFR Open takes the place of the traditional Dodge RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo that was previously held in Kissimmee, Fla. The four-day NFR Open paid out a million dollars to competitors, livestock and other PRCA members.

2022 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo NFR Open National Champions:

Bareback: Ty Pope

Steer Wrestling: Kyle Irwin

Team Roping: Blake Hirdes and Dalton Pearce

Saddle Bronc: Kade Bruno

Tie Down Roping: Taylor Santos

Breakaway Roping: Martha Angelone

Barrel Racing: Cheyenne Allan

Bull Riding: Braidy Randolph

2021 WPRA champion Jordon Briggs (daughter of barrel racing legend Kristie Peterson) and her popular horse "Rollo" blazed the arena for a 17.17-second time in the sudden death Gold Buckle Round of the Pikes Peak or Bust's NFR Open on Saturday July 16. Although it was the third fastest time of the entire four-day rodeo, Briggs and Rollo placed second behind Cheyenne Allan's electric 17.04 time in the championship round.
Texas bull rider Braidy Randolph took home the circuit national champion title with this 86-point effort aboard Grand Slam in the sudden death Gold Buckle Round. Randolph was the only contestant to make a qualified ride in either of the Semi-Final and Gold Buckle Rounds, as the bulls brought to the high-profile, million dollar rodeo were among the best in the industry.
Providing excellent cowboy protection throughout the entire four-day run of the 2022 Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo's NFR Open, bullfighters Nathan Jestes and Bryce Redo showed great instincts and no fear while they immediately jumped between the bulls and any downed cowboys.

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