Freestyle bullfighting at Kaw Valley Rodeo

It'll be a celebration of 44 years of professional rodeo in Manhattan this week.

“The Kaw Valley Rodeo is set Thursday through Saturday evenings, July 25-26-27, in Wells Arena at CiCo Park,” according to Brenda Area, secretary of the Kaw Valley Rodeo Association.

In conjunction with the Riley County Fair, rodeo action starts each evening at 8 p.m., with the gate opening at 6:30.

Sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the rodeo has many generous supporters headed by corporate sponsor Briggs Auto Group, Area acknowledged.

Each performance features bareback-bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle-bronc riding, tie-down roping, bull riding and barrel racing.

Rafter H Rodeo Company is returning as the stock contractor, and the announcer again this year will be Racer Botkins of Longview, Texas. Bullfighters are Dakota Knight and Tyler Dahl. Andy Burelle, Ardmore, Oklahoma, will serve as barrel man during the bull riding, and will also entertain with his miniature horses and a special trick horse.

Thursday, July 25, is Military Appreciation Night with a picnic at 5:30 for those serving for the nation’s freedom. “Military and families will get in free with a ticket and be recognized for their service,” Area said.

Kids 12-and-under will also get in free to Thursday’s performance with a non-perishable food donation brought to the rodeo. “Donations benefit the Flint Hills Breadbasket,” Area said, “because no one should go hungry.

“Good news for parents of little cowboys and cowgirls ages four-and-under get in free each night,” Area added.

Special events have also been planned especially for the children. The calf scramble each night is for the youth eight to 11 years old with no flip flops or sandals allowed.

“There’ll also be mutton busting, for kids five to seven weighing under 70 pounds, with signup before the rodeo,” Area said.

Friday, July 26, has been designated as Tough Enough To Wear Pink Night, with activities to increase cancer awareness and promote cancer research.

Finale performance Saturday evening, July 27, has been designated for presentations of the Brummett Award and Appreciation Recognition.

“This award is in memory of Bob Brummett, who was one of the original board members who helped bring professional rodeo to Manhattan in 1975,” Area said. “The tradition continues and an award has been presented each year to those who show continued support and dedication to the Kaw Valley Rodeo.”

For the second year, the Kaw Valley Rodeo Association is presenting a PRCA Freestyle Bullfight. The “Dance With Danger” is to be immediately following the Friday and Saturday evening performances, July 26-27.

“Freestyle Bullfighting involves highly skilled, talented human and bovine athletes partaking in a dangerous battle,” Area said. “Control, strength, aggression and courage are displayed throughout the competition.”

The bullfight itself is a 60-second event with a whistle at the mandatory 40-second mark after which the bullfight can be “sold.”

Bullfighters are judged on and will gain points by how well they maneuver around the bull. Working in close with the bull, staying in control, going both directions and “selling” the fight determine scores.

Bullfighters must maintain control of the barrel if the bull engages it. A bullfighter will lose points by getting run over, run up the fence or not controlling the barrel if engaged.

Bullfighters can gain extra points with jumps, barrel hops or walking down the bull’s back using the barrel.

Each bullfight is scored 1-to-25 points by each judge on how the bullfighter works and 1-to-25 points on how the bull performs.

What is the difference between bullfighters and Freestyle Bullfighting? “Bullfighters,” also known as ‘cowboy protection,’ have the primary job of keeping a bull rider safe,” Area said. “They are present in the arena when a bull rider gets onto a bull and enters the arena for his ride. They do their best to protect the cowboy from injury by the bull.

“Fundamentals of freestyle bullfighting and ‘cowboy protection’ are basically the same. The object is to get the bull to focus on the bullfighter either to protect others or to ‘freestyle,’ akin to dancing,” Area clarified.

“In 1976, when the Riley County Fair Board needed evening entertainment, a group of rodeo enthusiasts looked into bringing their sport to Manhattan,” Area reflected. “A fairgrounds arena, established through a federal grant, provided a location, and organizing the rodeo was soon underway.

“Today, more than four decades later, the Kaw Valley Rodeo continues to bring cowboys, cowgirls, champion livestock and rodeo fans, young and old, together each summer at the Riley County Fair for Manhattan’s premier outdoor summer sporting event in Wells Arena.

“We’ll see you there,” Area invited.

Randy Holle serves as the rodeo president, with Blake Area as vice president. Jessica Holle is the treasurer.

Other directors include Ryan Borg, Neil Boyer, Brice Brummett, Sandy Chandler, Aaron Holle, Dustin Holle, Dick Petersen, Zach Richard and Garrett Wilson.

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