WALLA WALLA — Nearly 500 riders and ropers will descend on Walla Walla this week for the annual Frontier Days Rodeo at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds.
Timed events cowboys will take over the arena Tuesday morning for one complete round of competition and a good portion of the second round. Steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping are slated to begin at 7 a.m. and will continue into the early afternoon.
Rough stock cowboys — bull riders, saddle bronc riders and bareback riders — and women’s barrel racers will join in during three consecutive nights of arena action beginning Friday. All three performances commence at 7 p.m.
And if you’re a fan of steer tripping, there will be an added bonus this year as steer roping returns to the Frontier Days schedule for the first time in more than a decade. Considered one of the oldest working-cowboy events in professional rodeo, steer roping will be contested in the fairgrounds arena Friday and Saturday mornings at 7, with two complete rounds on tap each day.
Tuesday’s slack and the steer roping are free of charge and open to the public. Tickets for the three nightly performances are priced at $12, with children 3-to-13 years of age admitted for half price Friday night only. Rodeo ticket prices do not include fairgrounds gate tickets.
This year’s contestant list features 64 tie-down ropers, 67 steer wrestlers and 50 pairs of team ropers in the timed events, plus 53 steer ropers. Forty-six saddle bronc riders, 45 bull riders and 30 bareback riders are entered in the rough stock events. And 87 barrel racers round out the field.
Cowboys and cowgirls will be competing for $53,000 in added prize money.
Leading the field, as he has for the last several years, is Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, who once again sits atop the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association all-around standings as he rolls into town. Brazile’s total earnings stand at $178,202, with the majority of that coming in the team roping where he and partner Patrick Smith of Midland, Texas, have so far pocketed $99,614 each to rank first in the event.
Brazile has also earned $47,719 in steer roping, where he sits third in the PRCA standings, and he is entered in the calf roping event as well.
Nine of the PRCA’s top 10 cowboys in the all-around standings are due up in Walla Walla during the course of the week. The only missing face will be that of Josh Peek, a Pueblo, Colo., roper who ranks third in the all-around with $83,468 in his bank account.
Four other cowboys who lead their respective events are entered here.
Steven Dent of Mullen, Neb., tops the bareback standings with $103,980. He and seven other top-10 bronc riders will be coming out of the bucking chutes this weekend.
Cody Teel of Kountze, Texas, has racked up earnings of $110,828 to lead all PRCA bull riders. And the Frontier Days bull-riding field appears stronger than usual with eight of the events top 10 in earnings slated to be in town.
Boxholm, Iowa, rough stock cowboy Wade Sundell is also in town. Sundell is pro rodeo’s leading saddle bronc rider with $88,633 in the bank, although a somewhat weak Frontier Days saddle bronc field includes only four of top 10 riders.
And Cody Lee of Gatesville, Texas, who leads a powerful field of steer ropers, has earned $52,458 so far this rodeo season. The top 19 steer trippers in the PRCA standings are entered in Walla Walla.
Ethan Thouvenell of Napa, Calif., who tops the bulldogging standings with $64,839, and calf-roping leader Justin Maass of Giddings, Texas, with $120,411 stashed away, are Frontier Days no-shows. However, nine of the PRCA’s top 10 steer wrestlers and eight of the top 10 calf ropers are entered.
It’s much the same in the barrel racing.
Six of the top 10 women in the event will compete in Walla Walla, but leader Brittany Pozzi of Victoria, Texas, and her $161,422 in earnings are missing. The Frontier Days barrel racing field does, however, include Brenda Mays of Terrebonne, Ore., a former Walla Walla Community College rodeo and basketball star who sits fifth in the event with $71,037 in earnings.
There are also eight Walla Walla area women who will serpentine the barrels this weekend. They are Kelli Currin of Dayton, Natalie Deking of Burbank, Kim Kammenzind of Touchet, Cheyenne Williams of Athena and Nicole Aichele, Tara Lawrence, Bobo McMillan and Michelle Warren, all of Walla Walla.
Area cowboys entered at Frontier Days are steer wrestlers Buster Barton, Tony Currin, B.J. Taruscio and Travis Taruscio along with team ropers Bryce Palmer and Garrett Rogers and steer roper Tygh Campbell. Barton and B.J. Taruscio are from Walla Walla, Currin lives in Dayton, Palmer in Milton-Freewater and Rogers and Campbell are from Athena, Travis Taruscio, B.J.’s brother, now lives in Stanfield.
Finally, five of last year’s Frontier Days champions are back.
Matt Shiozawa of Chubbuck, Idaho, will be in town to defend his calf roping title. Bareback champ George Gillespie of Placerville, Calif., returns as does bull riding champion Wesley Silcox of Santaquin, Utah, and saddle bronc champion Ben Londo of Pendleton.
Turtle Powell of Stephenville, Texas, was part of last year’s winning team roping duo with Jhett Johnson of Casper, Wyo. Powell is back this week, teamed up with a new partner, Dugan Kelly of Paso Robles, Calif. Johnson is not entered.
Last year’s bulldogging champ, Stockton Graves of Newkirk, Okla., and barrel racing champion Tammie Fischer of Ledbetter, Texas, also did not return.
One other very familiar face that will be missing from this year’s Frontier Days is that of Fred Whitfield, an eight-time world calf roping champion from Hockley, Texas. The 45-year-old Whitfield is ranked seventh in the event this year with $59,602 banked, but he won’t rope in Walla Walla this week.