PRCA rolls through Oakley
It’s only the eighth-largest Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) event this week, but the 75th annual Oakley Rodeo and Fourth of July celebration would be one of the biggest at any other time on the busy circuit.
The weekend of the Fourth of July is known as "Cowboy Christmas" for the number of rodeos with rich prize pools that land on the nation’s birthday, and many of Oakley’s competitors will be taking part in as many as 10 rodeos this week alone.
"It’s like Major League Baseball," said communications director Andy Woolstenhulme, himself a four-time competitor, of the PRCA’s cachet in the professional rodeo community. Several current and past world champions will take part, Woolstenhulme said, but the field wouldn’t be fully known until Wednesday night’s random draw (before which The Record had gone to press).
Organizers expect to sell about 24,000 tickets for the four days of competition. The event won’t schedule anything for July 4 itself, opting instead for a day of rest to respect the religious wishes of the community. The traditional celebration will take place on Monday’s federal holiday.
The seven PRCA-sanctioned events on tap include bareback riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, women’s barrel racing and bull riding. A 10-rider limit is imposed on each event to ensure action-packed viewing.
Stock animals will be provided by Bar T Rodeo out of Chester, which is one of the providers for December’s prestigious Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. For the athletes, who live out of their trailers and travel around the country, the whole season represents a chase to finish among the top 15 money winners and secure a spot in the dramatic Las Vegas finale.
A few of this weekend’s professionals will have less active schedules, among them two of Woolstenhulme’s Oakley-based relatives. Andy’s nephew Jake will compete alongside his father Wade in steer wrestling. Jake is just getting started as a professional, competing two or three times each week while working full-time, while Wade retired from a professional career.
The opening performance of the rodeo is at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, and Friday night’s events also begin at 8 a.m. On Saturday, breakfast will be held at Oakley City Hall at 7 a.m., with horse pulls at 11 a.m. The "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" luncheon will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, with the PRCA rodeo again at 8 p.m. (with a pink theme).
On Monday, a parade will begin at 10 a.m. A patriotic program immediately follows the parade at Cattlemans Hall, with a barbecue at Oakley City Hall. A junior rodeo and kids activities will be held at 1 p.m., and the final rodeo will end the festivities at 8 p.m.
"There’s a feeling out there that tickets are hard to get, that we’re sold out," said Woolstenhulme, who insisted that isn’t the case. Ticket prices remained at $15 for the third consecutive year.
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