Registration has closed for this year's 34th annual Pro Division Bull Ride and ProRodeo and organizers are excited about the caliber of contestants.
"We've got about 200 contestants just for the rodeo with 45 cowboys entered in the tie down roping event alone," said Jokela ProWest organizer Randy Jokela. "It will be a great show."
The 34th annual Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Touring Pro Division Bull Ride July 4-5 will be followed by the return of the of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) ProRodeo July 6-7.
Just shy of 10 years ago Jokela ProWest switched to solely a PBR bull ride due to the tremendous popularity nationwide, he explained.
"We have been thinking of bringing a rodeo back, and with this year's Fourth of July on a Wednesday, it was the perfect opportunity," Jokela said.
Both events - PBR and PRCA ProRodeo - draw some of the best cowboys and cowgirls to northern Minnesota.
Jokela ProWest produces Minnesota's largest PBR event each year just east of Park Rapids. The addition of the PRCA ProRodeo will make Park Rapids an even bigger draw the week of the Fourth of July, Jokela said.
This year, world-renowned clown John Harrison will be the rodeo clown July 5, 6 and 7 and Wesley "Hippie" Engelkes will entertain audiences July 4.
The Enterprise reached Harrison by phone and he had nothing but praise for traveling to the Midwest.
"The crowds are so much fun," Harrison said. "They are there to have a good time and it shows."
Harrison lives in Soper, Okla., and said the crowds in southern states are a lot different.
"I'd rather go up north," he said. "In Texas, for example, it's a lot of former riders and they are there to watch the competition."
He grew up in rodeo, he said, and received his first trick riding lesson after watching a trick rider perform at a nearby rodeo. Since then he has trained and performed with many of the best trick riders in the world.
His grandfather is bull rider Warren Granger "Freckles" Brown, who was known for riding an "unrideable" bull named Tornado in 1967. The bull had thrown more than 200 riders in 14 years before Freckles had his successful ride.
Harrison became a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in 1999, as a trick and roman rider, and trick roper. He has since diversified and added barrelman to his PRCA card.
Today, Harrison entertains audiences by playing off the crowd.
"My act is different every night. I never know what's going to happen going in," he said.
Bull ride and rodeo fans will be entertained by not only the clowns but cowboys and cowgirls.
Bull riders participating in the PBR are hoping to qualify for the finals. The bull riding events in Park Rapids has typically been three days. With the bull riding condensed to two evenings, riders have a chance to win even more money, Jokela said.
The PRCA ProRodeo has participants hoping to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev. That event is the largest in the nation and millions of dollars are given away.
Fans who follow the PBR and PRCA on ESPN and CBS will recognize the same top cowboys, cowgirls and livestock at the Touring Pro Division Bull Ride and PRCA rodeo. Park Rapids has become legendary for its hospitality, all-American holiday atmosphere and energized crowds.
The nation's top contestants also hope for a spot here, too, because it's a retreat from the heat of venues in states like Texas and Arkansas. The bull ride features up to 40 rides per night. The top 10 scorers will get an extra bull ride in the finals.
In addition to seeing live, heart-stopping action as cowboys go after that eight-second, scoring ride at the PBR bull ride, audiences return year after year to enjoy the pageantry of the opening ceremonies and kids amateur muttin' bustin' (sheep riding) events.
Jokela said there are a few spots open for muttin' bustin' and people can go to www.parkrapidsbullriding.com for more information. Kids must be between 5 and 7 years old and weigh less than 60 pounds.
This year, Walmart's Moto-X daredevil motorcycle shows on Wednesday and Thursday feature three extreme riders from Chicago, Ill. There will be nightly dances featuring two bands. A special military salute will happen on the Fourth of July.
The PRCA rodeo event will feature saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping and women's professional barrel racing. Cowboy and cowgirl athletes, skilled horses and riders, and arena action will entertain spectators Friday and Saturday, July 6-7.
The rodeo will feature entertaining acts throughout.
The gates open at 5 p.m. with shows beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at www.parkrapidsbullride.com and area businesses.