It’s a rodeo solely devoted to the best of the riders taking on one of the rankest pens of bulls in the West.
Laramie Jubilee Days has featured an electric evening of heart-thumping rides from out of the chutes at the Albany County Fairgrounds rodeo arena through the years. Tonight’s Mr. T Xtreme Bull Riding for the 79th edition of Laramie Jubilee Days will keep with that tradition.
After all, the longtime logo for the entire weeklong summer celebration is a particular rank bull’s head with menacing horns.
The bull riding only event has long been a signature staple before three following days of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo performances and slack. It started many years ago with legendary stock contractors from Laramie in the Burns Rodeo Company in Pete Burns and his son, Hal.
The bulls vs. cowboys showdown was widely known as Mr. T Classic Bull Riding, which was inspired by a local legendary PRCA bull named Mr. T Copenhagen from the Burns Rodeo Company.
Mr. T was PRCA bull of the Year in 1986 and was voted Bucking Bull of the National Finals Rodeo that year and again in 1989. He was ridden only three times in his career with the first qualified ride not until 1989. Cowboys from the past and present still describe the late Mr. T as one of the biggest and meanest bulls ever.
“Back in the day when it first started it was an open bull riding for everybody,” said Laramie Jubilee Days Rodeo Chairman Myron Hales. “Then we had the opportunity to make it what we called a special section when we went pro with the bull riding and it was the first section of the (entire) rodeo.”
Hales has been a volunteer for Laramie Jubilee Days rodeo for 28 years and a chairman for the last 17 years.
After Mr. T retired from showing off in the arenas, many his offspring continued to dazzle the crowds and leave brave cowboys just shaking their heads after being dumped in the dirt before eight seconds. Those who were able to notch a qualified ride usually got a paycheck at the end of the night.
Complete with pre-show pyrotechnics and rock ‘n’ roll and country music throughout, another unique twist makes the wild evening more popular with a special, smaller arena bringing all spectators much closer to the action.
“Since we started doing that, it’s been an incredible difference,” Hales said. “If I’m not mistaken, it is about a 50-foot arena rather than a 150-foot arena. With the grandstands right there, it’s up close and personal. Spectators are able to see and hear what’s going on — the camaraderie of the cowboys helping each other and cheering each other on. That’s a cool part about rodeo — everybody helping each other out.”
Hales and the Jubilee Days committee took it another step forward when they raised the ante to increase the total purse and become part of the PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour. Last year, the total payout was $12,878.
The Xtreme tour only has a limited number of stops throughout the country during the rodeo year. Money earned by the contestants on the Xtreme tour goes toward its own standings as well as the PRCA bull riding world standings for qualification to the NFR. But the money is not counted toward the PRCA all-around standings. The added money for an Xtreme bulls event helps entice some of the major names in the event.
“When the popularity of pro bull riding rose with the PBR and PRCA, we decided to kick in a little extra money and make it an Xtreme event,” Hales said. “We are a level two Xtreme event with level one with a little more money. But we are still right up there with the best of them.
“When we travel around the country going to different rodeos I hear people talking about Laramie’s Xtreme bull riding and them trying to get entered. So far, knock on wood if we don’t lose anybody, we have a pretty good lineup this year. We are looking forward to a good bull riding.”
Each year, the Mr. T Xtreme Bull Riding attracts many of the current top-ranked bull riders vying for the prize money to boost their chances of finishing in the top 15 of the PRCA world standings to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo.
Some recent contestants to name a few who have made Laramie a regular stop were: Cody Teel of Kountze, Texas, who is a five-time NFR qualifier and a world champion in 2012; Jarrod Ford of Greeley, Colorado, who was a two-time NFR qualifier and won the Mr. T in 2012; Trey Benton III of Rock Island, Texas, who is a five-time NFR qualifier; Parker Breding of Edgar, Montana, who is a three-time NFR qualifier, current ranked No. 4 in this year’s world standings and won here in 2014; and Clayton Savage of Casper, who is a three-time NFR qualifier and won the Mr. T in 2015.
During last year’s Mr. T Xtreme Bull Riding, only seven qualified rides (out of about 30 from out of the chutes) were recorded with Jordan Spears of Redmond, Oregon, taking home the top prize with a score of 86.5 points for $3,919. Spears, a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, just missed another shot at the NFR when he finished 18th in the PRCA world standings.
The cowboys are only half of the equation — the other half of the score comes from the bucking beasts.
Several years ago, the Burns Rodeo Company’s bulls combined with Centennial’s J.D. Hamaker’s bucking horses for bronc and saddle-bronc riding. Then they combined with stock contractor Jesse Hill of Franktown, Colorado, for what is now known as Summit Pro Rodeo, based in Centennial.
Summit Pro Rodeo has since provided some of the best bucking stock for the NFR, College National Finals Rodeo, Mountain States Circuit Finals and multiple PRCA events during the year. More recently this summer, for the Xtreme bull riding events at the Elizabeth Stampede in Colorado and the Cody Stampede.
Summit Pro Rodeo has also recently added the services of longtime stock contractor Byron Juma of Torrington.
“We will have a whole different look of what the bulls will be this year,” Hales said. “J.D. and Jesse have done a wonderful job with Summit Pro Rodeo, and they sometimes bring in some different contractors to help them out and to provide different looks. They will give (the cowboys) a good, honest try and a chance to get to the pay window.”