Posted 8/05/15 (Wed)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
Over 55 of the world’s up and coming professional bull riders will be pitting their riding skills against some of the toughest bulls in the United States on Saturday, Aug. 8, when Watford City hosts the Professional Bull Riders ‘Fire Fighter’s Challenge’ Touring Pro Division event.
The Fire Fighter’s Challenge will be held at the McKenzie County Fairgrounds. The Challenge will be the first time that Watford City has hosted a PBR event. And bringing a PBR event to Watford City has event organizers excited.
“For 13 years, Watford City had the North Dakota Rodeo Association Finals here,” said Tim Jorgenson, one of the men responsible for bringing the PBR event to Watford City. “A group of us, all individuals involved in the ag and rodeo culture, wanted something with western heritage here in our county. We wanted to bring another big event here and we wanted to keep that rodeo/cowboy image alive and doing well.”
The PBR is experiencing unprecedented growth in global and domestic appeal. Today more than 600 bull riders from the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico hold PBR memberships. They compete in more than 300 bull riding events each year on either the nationally-televised Built Ford Tough Series, the BlueDEF Velocity Tour, or the Touring Pro Division. There are also tours in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico.
The ultimate goal is to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas, the richest bull riding event on the planet, with the winner receiving the World Championship belt buckle and a one million dollar bonus.
The success of the PBR has made it one of the most prolific sports on television. The combination of raw sports and quality entertainment has propelled live attendance growth as well. Annual attendance of more than three million fans each season, compared to 310,000 in 1995, indicates that the PBR is making an indelible impression.
“This is our first year,” said Jorgenson. “We’re getting our feet wet with a big-name-event. It’s an event we’d like to build and bring back every year.”
According to Jorgenson, a lot of the bulls that will be competing in the event are bulls that will be going to the National PBR Finals in Las Vegas, and they are bulls that travel all over the United States to PBR events. Some of the featured bulls will include Buck Wild, Guns and Donuts, and several other World Finals bulls.
“During Watford City’s Ribfest, we’ll have a booth on Main Street,” said Jorgenson. “ And we’re going to have an actual bull there. So people can come, stop down, and take a look - get up close and personal. We’ll also be selling PBR tickets at our booth so we invite everyone to come out and visit us during Ribfest.”
About 55 riders, from all over the world, will be competing during the event on Aug. 8 in Watford City, which will include a long go-round and a short go-round with the top 15 riders to compete in the finals.
According to Jorgenson, the winners are looking at some ‘pretty good money.’ The event will start at 6 p.m. and will be held outdoors at the fairgrounds rodeo arena.
Known as the toughest sport on dirt, the rules are simple. Place a wiry cowboy on the back of a hulking, snorting, temperamental 2,000-pound bull and see if he can ride the beast for an eternal eight seconds with one hand strapped to the bull’s massive backside.
If this sounds like entertainment, it is. Professional bull riding is a fierce, rough, and grueling sport with roots deeply imbedded in American culture. It’s America’s original extreme sport. The PBR has evolved into a captivating and adrenaline-charged sporting event that features an all-star cast of the greatest bull riders and bucking bulls in the world.
“Our ultimate goal down the road is to make this a two-day event,” said Jorgenson. “We want to make this event bigger and better every year. It’s actually a pretty big thing to be bringing this kind of event here to Watford City. It’s PBR!”
The PBR event is being sponsored by the McKenzie County Fair Board, First International Bank & Trust, Cenex of Watford City, Kirkland Inc., Schantzen Welding, F and T Rodeo, IWS Welding, and Saddle Up Western Wear. Part of the proceeds raised will be donated to the Keene Rural Volunteer Fire Department.
Advanced tickets are available at Saddle Up Western Wear. Adults are $18 and kids 12 and under are $12. Tickets will also be available at the gate. Adults will be $20 and kids 12 and under will be $15. There will be concessions and a beer garden.