Big field coming

A record number of contestants from 26 states and one from Australia have registered to compete for a new high of approximately $45,000 in prize money in the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department’s 69th Annual PRCA rodeo. The event opens Wednesday, July 31, and runs for four nightly performances at 8 p.m. through Saturday, August 3, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The PRCA headquarters in Colorado Springs announced this week that 172 pro cowboys and cowgirls had paid their entry fees and will head for Gerry. This includes 14 cowboys who have entered two events, while two will compete in three events, including last year’s “All Around Cowboy” award winner, Darren Morgan of Fort Edward, N.Y.

Clovis Crane, of Mt. Lebanon, Pa., is the “iron man” of the entries. He will compete in four rough stock events, including saddle bronc and bareback bronc riding, bull riding and steer wrestling after missing last year’s rodeo because of a broken hand. Crane makes his living breaking thoroughbred horses, has worked as a jockey, and was once one of the top collegiate wrestlers in the country at Purdue University.

Another returnee is bull rider Troy Alexander, who holds a Ph.D., and is a rocket scientist with the Department of Defense, in Washington, D.C.

The oldest of the competitors is 57-year-old Joe Bell, Sr., who has been competing in Gerry for more than 35 years. He recently won the steer wrestling event at the First Frontier Finals in Harrisburg, Pa.

Other top names (among the contestants) are a 24 year-old industrial engineer, Jacob Crawley, from Stephenville, Texas, who won the collegiate saddle bronc championship in 2011 and has already qualified twice for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, and Tom Farrelly, of Cayuga, N.Y., a six-time saddle bronc champ at the First Frontier Finals.

All contestants must be PRCA members and pay dues of $500 per year, as well as posting an entry fee for each event. Those fees vary depending on the event and range $50 for the bareback riding to $150 for steer wrestling. Entry fees are added to money from the fire department and other sponsors to make up the prize totals. Any contestant who does not place in his or her event will go home empty-handed after paying entry fees, travel, and other expenses.

The rodeo will also feature the antics of clown and barrel man Dusty Barrett and his specialty act of Roman Riding ponies where he is assisted by Dusti Stockton, the youngest trick rider in pro rodeo today.

The famous beef barbecue dinners are served each evening from 5 until 8 in the air conditioned dining room. The Gerry Rodeo is now the longest consecutively running rodeo east of the Mississippi. And all proceeds go to benefit the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department.

Additional information is available at the rodeo website www.gerryrodeo.org or by phone at (716) 985-4847 or 1-888-985-4847. Tickets are also available by phone or at ticketfly.com.