By Shawna Graves, Office of Public Relations
Ranches from across Texas and New Mexico will show audiences what they’re made of, at the Sul Ross State University S.A.L.E. Arena Aug. 9 and 10, during the annual Big Bend Ranch Rodeo.
Two evening rodeos and several daytime events showcase working ranch chores from team sorting and doctoring to the wild sounding wild cow milking.
The Rodeo is sanctioned by the Working Ranch Cowboys Association and the winning team advances to the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo this November.
Competitors must prove they are full-time ranch hands from working outfits, an increasing rarity in an industry given to daywork and helicopter round-ups. Contestants compete as a team representing their ranch.
“All the teams tell us this is their favorite rodeo of the year,” Big Bend Ranch Rodeo committee member Chachi Hawkins said. The beauty and hospitality of the area is a big draw, she explained.
Events at a ranch rodeo are different from a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo. You won’t see bull-riding, but you will witness a slice of real ranch life.
“Ranch rodeo celebrates the ranching heritage and ranching way of life,” Hawkins said.
Bronc riding bears the most similarities to a pro rodeo, but the rules vary slightly. No PRCA gear is allowed; the rider must use a working ranch saddle, and “ride as ride can” means one or both hands may be used in the attempt to stay on the bronc for the whole eight seconds.
Team sorting, team doctoring, and team branding are all team sports showcasing how well the teams work together to sort cattle from the herd according to the task at hand.
“We suggest you come for the whole thing,” Hawkins said.
Besides qualifying for the World Championship, the Rodeo is for a good cause. Each year, all proceeds go to Sul Ross State University scholarships.
“In the past 18 years, the Rodeo has generated over $215,000 in scholarships Sul Ross rodeo members,” Hawkins said.
The Rodeo is organized by a 15-person committee, including several Sul Ross alumni. One of those is Gary Dunshee, co-owner and saddler at Big Bend Saddlery. Dunshee rode for the Sul Ross Brand as a team roper in the 1970s, when he attended as an Animal Science undergrad.
“We’ve been involved with helping Sul Ross ever since I graduated,” he said.
In addition to rodeo events, there will be a Ranch Horse of America competition at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, followed by a youth competition of the same show at 2:00 p.m. Both have local competitors. “It’s my favorite part of the whole weekend,” Hawkins said.
There will be a dance and horseless goat roping throughout the weekend.
The rodeo program begins each Friday and Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m. and lasts for about three hours. Tickets are $10 and go on sale at 5:30 p.m. the night of the show at the S.A.L.E. Arena.
For the full line-up, including event explanations, visit bigbendranchrodeo.com.