WALLA WALLA - Come Friday, the large indoor arena at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds will be transformed into a busy and bustling rodeo scene, full of college students and their horses, livestock and rodeo fans.
This weekend is the 29th annual Riding Against Child Abuse College Rodeo, jointly chaired by the Walla Walla Community College rodeo team, the Walla Walla Exchange Club and the Walla Walla Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.
And about 140 rodeo riders from 13 regional colleges will fill the Walla Walla Fairgrounds for the event, which begins Friday night and ends Sunday.
The Warrior rodeo team has hosted the event for more than 30 years, said WWCC rodeo coach Buster Barton.
And the split between the three groups has raised more than $300,000 for child abuse prevention efforts.
But to get there, the WWCC team, along with about 400 volunteers, has to put in some work.
"There's a lot of preparation," said Barton, watching his students herd steer into a holding pen at the Fairgrounds. "This building will really transform, if we don't fall behind schedule."
The rodeo opens Friday night at 7 p.m. and continues Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. The short-go is at noon Sunday.
"We do everything a big rodeo does, but we do it a little smaller," said Dick Cook, a co-chair of the rodeo.
The rodeo will also feature a free children's rodeo Saturday morning with classic events like goat riding and a chicken chase, and rodeo clown J.J. Harrison will provide entertainment. Bullfighter Rowdy Barry will also sell western art to benefit the cause, Cook said.
The event was a sellout last year on the Saturday night portion, Cook said.
"Our attendance goes up every year," he said. "It's a good cause and it's a lot of fun to come out."
There's a cowboy breakfast prepared by the WWCC culinary arts program on Saturday morning, with the kids' rodeo beginning at 9:30 a.m.
For the 62 WWCC rodeo athletes, this is their only "home" meet of the 10-rodeo year, held at the facility where they keep their livestock and do much of the training.
"As a college rodeo production, this is one of the biggest in the country," Barton said. "We have the luxury of practicing where the rodeo is held, so we essentially have homecourt advantage.
"We have probably the best college practice facility this side of Colorado, here in Walla Walla," Barton said of the Fairgrounds and livestock the WWCC team uses. "It's good to have such strong support from our college."
Competitors come from 13 schools in the Northwest Region, which includes Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho. Riders from both two- and four-year schools, including Washington State University, the University of Idaho, Eastern Washington University and Central Washington University, will compete, he said.
This is the third rodeo of the season, which ends at nationals in Casper, Wyo., in June. The season started last October at Ontario, Ore.
WWCC's men's team is in second place overall after the two fall rodeos, behind Blue Mountain. The women are in fourth place, with Treasure Valley leading. And many WWCC riders are in the top five in their respective categories.
"We've got a lot of talent," Barton said of the team, with athletes from across the Northwest and two from Hawaii. There are 38 men and 24 women on the team.
The WWCC team's next rodeo is April 22-24 in Ellensburg. Complete standings are available at website collegerodeo.com/Rodeos/Result_Standings.asp under ‘Northwest Region.'
Northwest Region Rodeo No. 2, 7 p.m.
Cowboy Breakfast, 8-11 a.m., $5 for adults, $4 for kids and seniors, $12 for a family pass.
Kid's Rodeo, 9:30 a.m. (free)
College Rodeo, 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
College Rodeo Finals, Noon.
College rodeo is $8 for adults at the gate and $5 for kids and seniors.