CENTRAL POINT — The bigger, badder Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo kicked and bucked its way into the Jackson County Expo in Central Point this weekend, promising cowboys a higher paycheck and the crowd better entertainment.

CENTRAL POINT — The bigger, badder Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo kicked and bucked its way into the Jackson County Expo in Central Point this weekend, promising cowboys a higher paycheck and the crowd better entertainment.

The rodeo broke 25 years of tradition this year when it swept into Jackson County this spring, placing it in the midst of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association (PRCA) points race.

In the past, the local rodeo staged in October, which many cowboys felt was too late to make a last-minute push into the rodeo championships in Las Vegas in December, according to Expo Director Chris Borovansky.

"We now have cowboys making a push in the points in December," Borovansky said. "In the past we've seen a diminished quality and quantity of cowboys."

Borovansky said the point generated by cowboys who participated in the October rodeo at the Expo saw their points kicked to the next year's tally. By moving the rodeo to the spring, the event brought a sense of urgency to national riders who want to compete in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. That event will take place December 4-13.

"In addition, we've traditionally offered a purse of $3,000 to each winning cowboy in each event," Borovansky said. "Now we are offering a purse of $5,000. The cowboys who come here can make a really good payday."

The events Friday included bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling, barrel wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping. The enthusiastic crowd greeted each cowboy with loud cheers, sparked by professional rodeo clown J.J. Harrison, who made his second appearance this year at the rodeo.

Harrison noticed a significant difference in this year's crowd compared to those who attended the 2007 rodeo.

"The energy was crazy this year," he said. "The crowd loves the uncanned humor so much more. You can't beat this."

Harrison tied the new-found enthusiasm to the current rodeo's importance to the national points race.

"By moving the rodeo up to the spring the planners have brought in world-class cowboys," he said. "Also, the added money for the winners helps."

The event featured rodeo legends such as Joe Beaver, of Huntsville, Texas, who is a former PRCA All-Around Cowboy and a multiple world champion tie-down roper.

The crowd showed equal love to local cowboys such as Johny Jardine, who was raised in Jackson County but now hails from Boring. Jardine attempted to ride the bull Showdog, but was unable to last the 8 seconds needed to tally a score.

If the rodeo meant so much to the cowboys in terms of money, it seemed to mean as much to the kids in terms of spectacle.

"I know there's manure everywhere," Harrison said to the kids. "Welcome to my world."

Halie Walker, an 11-year-old from Central Point, was the proud winner of the boot race, which took place between events. Harrison took a group of kids into the center of the ring for the race. They were ordered to take off one shoe before racing to the other end of the ring. First place took home the grand prize of a new pair of boots. She leads the pee wee division in the local Trail Dust Saddle Club barrel racing race for kids her age.

Halie beat the group by a large margin to claim first place. She is a member of 4-H who shows cows, sheep and horses. She hopes to someday take part in professional barrel racing.

"I love running," she said after the boot race. "But I also love horse riding."

Four-year-old Alex Mitchell took in the bucking and kicking from the crowd with his father. Alex has participated in the sheep riding competition earlier this week and hopes to one day ride the bulls in front of a cheering crowd.

"I wanna bull ride," he said.

His father Brad Mitchell, who owns Rogue Industrial Metal Works in White City encourages his young son's rodeo dreams. The Mitchell owns a ranch in Phoenix.

"He wants to win in Vegas," Mitchell said. "He loves running with the cows on the ranch. He helps me out."

The duo rooted for the bull riders as they burst into the middle of the arena and were promptly bucked to the ground.

"This is the best rodeo in the Medford area now that they've let them qualify for the finals," Mitchell said. "We'll be here next year."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.