When it comes to summertime in the Bellevue area, it doesn’t get much better than taking in the local rodeo, which is slated this year for June 20 through June 22.
In fact, the Jackson County Pro Rodeo is ranked as one of the top five small rodeos in the United States by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and people from across the Midwest come to enjoy the unique three-day event, which is filled with cowboys, cowgirls, food, music and wholesome fun.
The Pro Rodeo runs for three evenings at the Bellevue Horsemen’s Club arena and grounds west of Bellevue just off Bellevue-Cascade Road. Gates open at 5 p.m. each evening with rodeo action beginning at 7:30 p.m.
This year, the rodeo is celebrating its 32nd year in conjunction with the 57th year of the Bellevue Horseman’s Club, whose members organize the annual event that draws thousands of fans.
Families bring their lawn chairs and blankets to line the hill overlooking the arena and listen to veteran announcer Roger Mooney. Following a kick-off party Wednesday, Thursday is a great night to bring the whole family.
Chuckwagon races and clowns prove big hits with the kids. Food stands, mechanical bulls, live music and beer are also part of the event.
Events like steer wrestling and team roping test practical ranching skills, drawing on the county’s rich cattle-breeding tradition. Bernard’s Three Hills Rodeo provides stock locally and for rodeos around the nation.
Meanwhile, the big-thrill events like bronc riding and especially bull-riding draws gasps from the crowd.
Other high-action events include bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping,
According to Rodeo Chair Lisa (Scheckel) Schroeder, the rodeo started in Bellevue in 1983 and was amateur for a couple of years, but quickly became professional in 1987, sanctioned by the PRCA.
“This all started as an idea of a few club members. We had a local stock contractor who worked with us to help us get on our feet, as well as the Jackson County Tourism Association,” said Schroeder.
The initial chair people included Dick and Mary Bayless and Don and LouAnn Scheckel, and continued on with Roger and Julie Mueller.
“The Bellevue Horsemen’s Club has always been a volunteer organization and all of the great people involved over the years have really made this a successful family event,” said Schroeder.
Back by popular demand this year is the Kids Corral, which is a free event for youth held prior to the show and includes a pony ring, stick horse races and meet and greet with rodeo clowns, cowboys and cowgirls.
Nightly Muttin Bustin’ (sheep riding) and a Pig Scramble are also popular amongst the youngsters at the rodeo.
The Jackson County Pro Rodeo features several high-octane events that thrill audiences all three nights. They include the following.
Bareback riding is one of the wildest and most physically demanding events in rodeo. Contestants must ride a bucking horse for eight seconds, holding nothing but a single-handhold rigging cinched around the horse’s girth. A rider is disqualified if he touches his equipment, himself or the animal with his free hand, or if he is bucked off before eight seconds. Half of the cowboy’s score comes from his spurring technique and “exposure” to the strength of the horse; the other half is determined by the bucking strength of the horse.
The concept seems straight forward enough – drop from a horse, grab a steer by the horns and wrestle it to the ground, stopping the clock as quickly as possible. Easily said. Not easily done. Timing, technique, strength and the horsemanship of the hazer, who guides the steer in a straight path for the cowboy, are the primary necessities of this popular event.
Team roping requires precise timing and anticipation between the header and heeler, making it rodeo’s only true team event. The header’s job is to rope the steer around the horns, neck or a horn-neck combination, then turn the steer to the left so that the heeler can ride in and rope both of the steer’s hind legs. The clock is started when the ropers leave their respective boxes, and it stops when their ropes are taut and their horses are facing each other. If the heeler catches only one leg, a five-second penalty is assessed; if the header fails to give the steer its allotted head start, the team receives a 10-second penalty.
Saddle Bronc Riding
Rodeo’s classic event – saddle bronc riding was truly born in the Old West, when ranch cowboys tested themselves against one another and the rankest of unbroken horses. Not much has changed. Today, cowboys are still climbing aboard bucking horses, and the competition between man and man – and man and horse – remains as intense as ever. A bronc rider must begin the ride with his feet placed over the bronc’s shoulders, then synchronize his spurring action with the animal’s bucking style in order to receive a high score after the eight-second trip.
A tie-down roping run begins with a mounted cowboy giving a head start to a 250-pound calf, then giving chase down the arena. After roping the calf, the cowboy dismounts, runs down the rope (which is anchored to the saddle horn), lays the calf on its side and ties any three of its legs together with a “piggin’ string” he carries clenched in his teeth. Needless to say, it requires a great athlete to accomplish the mad dash in a matter of a few seconds.
Bull riding is perhaps the easiest event in rodeo to understand. A cowboy tries to ride a bull for eight seconds while holding a simple rope looped around the bull's midsection. The rules aren’t complicated: don’t use your free hand, don’t fall off. Scoring is based on a possible perfect score of 100 points, derived from the contestant’s efforts and half from the bull’s. Sounds simple enough, but it’s not. With athletic bulls weighing up to a ton trying to throw their cowboy riders off, it’s one of rodeo’s most unpredictable events.