Debuting in a new time slot — and season — the 2008 Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo could be the Jackson County Fairgrounds' biggest in 25 years, drawing world champions and more spectators than ever.

Debuting in a new time slot — and season — the 2008 Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo could be the Jackson County Fairgrounds' biggest in 25 years, drawing world champions and more spectators than ever.

This year the rodeo will be Thursday through Saturday, May 29-31, at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Exposition Park, Central Point. In past years, the rodeo was held Friday through Sunday in October.

With more than 250 cowboys and cowgirls planning to attend, fairgrounds officials are convinced the changes were a good idea, said Director Chris Borovansky.

This year's rodeo will feature 35 bull riders, 29 bareback riders, 42 saddle bronc riders, 41 calf ropers, 34 steer wrestlers, 20 team ropers and 53 barrel racers.

By comparison, last year's event garnered six bull riders and about 10 contenders each for the other events.

Possible winnings are up from $3,000 to $5,000, resulting in higher stakes for competitors and a better show for rodeo fans.

"Entries are up so much that it's just astounding. We've never had this number or caliber of cowboys and cowgirls, so obviously the decision to move it was a good one," Borovansky said.

"The primary problem, and the reason for the date change, was that the national association began moving dates around. Our rodeo had moved beyond the date for qualifying for the national rodeo each year.

"We were holding our rodeo so late in the season that most of the cowboys were resting up for nationals by the time ours was held. This was just a chance for some last minute prize money."

Sponsored by PremierWest Bank, rodeo events begin at 7 p.m. each night. Kids activities and concessions will kick off as early as 4 p.m. and include free pony and wagon rides, mutton busting and face painting followed by performances by the Southern Oregon Drill Team, made up of former high school equestrians.

The Grange Co-Op and the city of Central Point will host a barbecue from 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, in the PremierWest parking lot on Pine Street. Tri-tip dinner, with pre-purchase of rodeo tickets, is just $5.

While this year's event will be a higher caliber show, admission prices will stay the same, a deal Borovansky said rodeo fans would be hard pressed to pass up.

"Before, it was becoming real difficult to draw the caliber that we need. We've got a long and storied historic of PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) rodeo here, so these were some changes that needed to be made," he said.

Thursday is family night with $6 (advance) and $7 (at the gate) admission for kids 12 and under and $13 and $15 for adults.

Friday and Saturday night admission is $14 in advance and $16 at the gate. The box office opens at 4:30 p.m. each day with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

Rodeo tickets are available at Big R, Sherm's Food 4 Less and Thunderbird in Medford; Gallop'n Glitz in Grants Pass; and at all Jackson and Josephine county PremierWest bank branches.

Call 774-8270 or see jcfairgrounds.com on the Web.