Rodeo performers hope to win big in Tucson

Rodeo performers hope to win big in Tucson

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The celebration of the cowboy, or La Fiesta de los Vaqueros kicks off on Saturday.  It is the 89th year of the Tucson rodeo, and organizers said they were off to a great start.

Ticket sales were 15 percent ahead of what they were at this time last year, and the good weather is sure to mean great attendance.

Many of the performers were settling into their trailers and hotel rooms for a good night of sleep before the big day.  It's a long journey.  Many of them have been on the road for months, traveling from rodeo to rodeo.

The Tucson Rodeo is a big one for performers.  Not only does it attract the world's leading cowboys and cowgirls from all over the world, but it's also big in terms of money.

Rodeo staff said they would be handing out about $400,000 in prize money this year.  The rodeo life is not just a hobby for the performers you will see in the arena.  For most of them it's a career and a livelihood.

"It's a really big deal to win this rodeo, it pays $18,000.  That's a pretty big pay day," said Justin Rumford, a rodeo clown, who lived life on the road.

He added, "The cowboys you see are not just a bunch of dumb hicks getting on animals.  These are guys who are professional athletes, they train year round."

Brent Sutton from South Dakota is a steer wrestler, trying to make a name for himself in the rodeo world, and win some big money while doing it. 

"I spend most of my life on the road, most weekends of the road," said Sutton.

He was looking forward to seeing his idols.

"There's guys you learn from and guys you want to be," said Sutton.

Sherry Shira, a performer with the Quadrilles de Mujeres was familiar with life on the road.

"It's trailers and hotel rooms and fast food, but you gotta stop and take care of your horse too," said Shira. 

The points earned in Tucson rodeo were important on the long road to getting to the final championships in Las Vegas, at the end of the year.

"For the rest of the guys in the industry, when you're wearing a Tucson belt buckle everyone knows where it came from and what it is.  It is definitely worth winning," said Sutton.

Rumford, the rodeo clown said even while he was clowning around in the arena, this was serious business.  He lived most of his life in a 44-foot trailer, decked out with a fancy kitchen with a fireplace, king size bed, several TV's, and a big closet.

"I travel non-stop from January to November.  It's a great life, being a rodeo clown.  People don't realize it but I make $150,000 to $200,000 a year," said Rumford.  He added that he had a masters in business as well.

"Tucson is definitely one of my top five cities.  We call it the party in the desert.  It's an amazing crowd and committee," said Rumford.

Gates open at 11 AM on Saturday.  For more information on the Tucson Rodeo and a schedule of events log onto www.tucsonrodeo.com.

 

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