WALLA WALLA -- An array of professional rodeo stars will shine down on Walla Walla once again this weekend at the annual Frontier Days Rodeo at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds.
As Garth Brooks might say (or sing), it will be the bulls and the blood and the dust and the mud during three nights of action-packed riding and roping in what Walla Walla Fair officials proudly proclaim to be "The Greatest Night Rodeo on Earth."
Frontier Days is slated for Friday through Sunday in the fairgrounds arena, with the first bareback bursting out of the chute at approximately 7 p.m. The rough stock events, which will also include bull riding and saddle bronc riding, will be interspersed with timed competitions in steer wrestling, tie-down roping (calf roping), team roping and women's barrel racing.
Several days before area rodeo fans slap down $10 a head for one of the nightly performances, they'll have the chance to take in plenty of roping and bulldogging during Tuesday morning slack that will complete the entire first round of the two-go timed events competition. Action begins at 7 a.m. in the arena, and it's free of charge.
There are 469 contestants entered in this year's rodeo, including most of the top cowboys in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association standings as well as a lion's share of the top barrel racers in the Women's Professional Rodeo Association world standings.
There are, in fact, 86 barrel racers in this year's field, led by Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz., who is the association's money leader with $162,059 in her bankroll. Brenda Mays of Terrebonne, Ore., a former rodeo and basketball standout at Walla Walla Community College, ranks fourth in the world with $75,352 in earnings and she will be here this weekend as well.
Altogether, eight of the world's winningest barrel racers in 2010 will compete. However, Tammy Kay-Fischer, last year's Frontier Days champion, is not entered.
Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, leads the cowboy contingent into the Walla Walla arena.
Brazile is once again in hot pursuit of the PRCA all-around crown that he won a year ago. He's the overall money leader by a wide gap with $209,052 in the bank, including $94,481 that tops the tie-down roping field. Ryan Jarrett of Summerville, Ga., is a distant second in the all-around with earnings of $103,163, and Stran Smith of Childress, Texas, ranks second in calf roping with $87,134 in hand.
Jarrett and Smith are both entered here, as are nine of the top 10 calf ropers in the world and eight of the top 10 in the all-around standings. Aubrey, Texas, calf roper Timber Moore won last year at Frontier Days and finds himself in 27th place in this year's PRCA standings with $41,542 in his bankroll.
Russell Cardoza of Terrebonne, Ore., last year's Frontier Days all-around champion, is back to defend his title. He ranks seventh in this year's all-around standings with $66,098 in the bank, including $57,700 in team roping where is the seventh-ranked heeler on the PRCA Tour.
Trevor Knowles of Mount Vernon, Ore., last year's Frontier Days steer wrestling champion, is also in this year's field of bulldoggers. He ranks fifth in this year's PRCA standings with earnings of $63,858.
Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos, Calif., has already pocketed $78,181 to top the world standings in steer wrestling. He'll compete in Walla Walla along with eighth other bulldoggers who are ranked in the PRCA's top 10.
The team-roping duo of JoJo LeMond of Andrews, Texas, and Randon Adams of Logandale, Nev., that finished first here a year ago is not entered in 2010. But Cory Petska of Lexington, Okla., and his partner, Georgia's Jarrett, are, as is the duo of Chad Masters of Clarksville, Tenn., and Jade Corkill, of Fallon, Nev. Petska is the No.1-ranked heeler in the world standings with earnings of $104,862, and Masters is the top header at $98,920.
Every heeler in the top 10 and nine of the top 10 headers will compete here this weekend.
All told, there are 67 calf ropers, 65 steer wrestlers and 63 sets of team ropers entered. As for the rough stock events, there are 51 bull riders entered and 45 riders each in the saddle bronc and bareback bronc events.
Seven of the top 10 bull riders are scheduled to compete here, including Shawn Hogg of Odessa, Texas, who has earned $106,145 to lead the PRCA field. Kanin Asay of Powell, Wyo, who won last year's Frontier Days bull riding championship, is also entered. Asay finds himself in 13th place in the world standings with earnings of $56,549.
Nine of the top 10 bareback riders in the PRCA field will be coming out of the chutes here this weekend, including top-ranked Ryan Gray of Cheney, Wash., and third-ranked Clint Cannon of Waller, Texas. Gray's winnings this year amount to $122,388 while Cannon, who won last year's Frontier Days bareback title, has bankrolled $81,766 so far.
This year's Frontier Days saddle bronc field appears to be the weakest, but seven of the top 10 in the PRCA standings are still entered here. That includes Wade Sundell of Boxholm, Iowa, who has pocketed $88,157 to date to lead the world standings.
Jesse Wright of Milford, Utah, the defending Frontier Days champion and the 10th-ranked saddle bronc rider this year, will also be in town. Wright has earned $53,207 so far.
There are eight Walla Walla area barrel racers entered in the weekend rodeo as well as a trio of steer wrestlers, one calf roper, one bareback rider and one half of a team roping duo.
The barrel racers are Bobo McMillan and Michele Lyons of Walla Walla, Julie Rugg Williams and Jaclyn Culham of Athena, Phyllis Owens of Milton-Freewater, Kim Kammenzind of Touchet, Kelli Currin of Dayton and Natalie Deking of Burbank.
Bulldoggers are B.J. Taruscio of Walla Walla and his brother, Travis Taruscio, who now lives in Stanfield, as well as Tony Currin of Dayton. Milton-Freewater's Brock Palmer is entered in the calf roping and his brother, Bryce Palmer, will team rope with his partner, Jake Minor of Ellensburg.
The lone local rough stock entry from the area is bareback rider Nick Baumann of Touchet.
The Growney Brothers Rodeo Company of Red Bluff, Calif., is once again the Frontier Days stock contractor. Steve Kenyon of Pendleton is the announcer, J.J. Harrison of Walla Walla the barrel man and Rowdy Barry and Ryan Wilson, both of Kennewick, are the bullfighters.
Rodeo contestants are competing for $42,000 in added prize money.