Sports

Thunderbird rides back into town

Ryan Schmelzer, of Terrebonne, Ore., hangs on for his life while riding Walking on Clouds at the 2006 Thunderbird Pro Rodeo, a benefit for two area charities. - Photo by Jesse Beals/file photo 2006
Ryan Schmelzer, of Terrebonne, Ore., hangs on for his life while riding Walking on Clouds at the 2006 Thunderbird Pro Rodeo, a benefit for two area charities.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals/file photo 2006

While the Thunderbird Pro Rodeo has a few changes in store, rodeo goers can still expect the same wild ride.

The Thunderbird Pro Rodeo is back Saturday and Sunday at Kitsap County Fairgrounds’ Thunderbird Arena, with Saturday’s gates opening at 6 p.m. and Sunday’s at noon.

“We’re really excited about this year,” Thunderbird co-producer Don Frazier said. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Last year, Frazier said more than 240 Northwest Professional Rodeo Association cowboys took on Thunderbird’s challenge, a number he said should continue this year. Last year’s participants made up the top seven or eight in almost every event. Frazier said rodeo organizers are anticipating a similar turnout this year.

Changing the days from Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday should help, Frazier said.

“By having the Saturday rodeo and Sunday morning slack, it offers more opportunities for the cowboys who are traveling the West Coast right now,” Frazier said. “It just makes it so more cowboys can make this rodeo.”

And with high-quality stock, that shouldn’t be a problem.

“Absolutely,” Frazier said. “We’ll be having the good, ole’ Gold Buckle Rodeo Company coming with us.”

That means more bulls like Scream, a Professional Bull Riders’ World Finals bull last year. But the attendance Frazier really wants to see increase is the fans.

“This year, I’m absolutely hoping against hope that we can fill the grandstands,” he said. “It’s a good fun show. It’s way more entertainment for your money throughout anywhere else, especially in the rodeo business.”

So far, that’s been the trend.

“Spectator-wise, we’ve done a little better each year,” Frazier said. “This year we’re hoping will put us over the top. In terms of the contestants, they’ve grown each year. Even last year in spite of the gas crunch.”

The reason he wants attendance to continue rising is simple: The Thunderbird acts as a benefit for Corey’s Day on the Farm, which brings special needs children from four counties to the Fairgrounds to experience farm life, and the Northwest Burn Foundation, which helps burn victims and their families.

“It makes it a little more fun for the general viewing public, while at the same time making some money for those great organizations,” Frazier said. “I think it’s good for the community. The whole thing, the whole purpose is to give back to the community.”

Issaquah Honda Kubota is the rodeo’s main sponsor this year, fronting a new group for the 2007 rodeo. The complete sponsor list is online at www.thunderbirdrodeo.com.

“There’s lots of new sponsors this year,” Frazier said. “We’re excited to have them.”

But one of the most interesting additions will be a competition on mechanical bulls between firefighters from all over the state in the Firefighter Challenge.

“That’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Frazier said.

The rodeo will again have the Coors beer garden and live music.

With all the help of the sponsors, Frazier and fellow co-producers Colen Corey, John Rosebeary and Dan Cook, especially thanked Kitsap County for the help provided in putting on the event.

“Kitsap County, they’ve done great for us,” Frazier said. “They’re the best help in the world. It makes it so much easier for everybody.”

General admission is $10, with a $2 discount for military. Kids’ admission is $5 and kids 5 and younger receive free admission. Tickets are available at all Westsound Bank locations, at Salon 1114 in Bremerton; at Charly Boots & Western Wear, Amish Touch Furniture, Shearz Hair Salon and Seattle Lighting in Silverdale; and Poulsbo’s The 12 Tree Cafe. For more information, visit www.thunderbirdrodeo.com.

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