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Return of the rodeo

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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneJackson County Rodeo Committee chair Carolyn Rider prepares the Jackson County Expo for the first Central Point Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo since 2019.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune A tractor smooths out the dirt Thursday afternoon in preparation for the return of the Central Point Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo at the Jackson County Expo. The ground was worked four times this week, preparing the indoor arena for the PRCA-sanctioned event.
Pro wranglers from near and far flock to Central Point for first Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo since 2019

From knowing the pitch-perfect sound guy to top-quality soil, a woman with decades of rodeo experience is sweating all the details to ensure the first Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo since 2019 has the same “electric,“ dirt-stomping energy fans remember.

Carolyn Ryder, the Jackson County Expo’s Rodeo Committee chair and fair board liaison, said the ground in the indoor arena has been worked no less than four times this week within the indoor Seven Feathers Event Center at The Expo to ensure that the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned event running through Saturday has the soft ground that helps keep animals and athletes safe.

Ryder, who has been involved in the event for the past 14 years, said she’s seen only one animal injury in her 14 years on Jackson County’s Rodeo Committee, which she attributes in part to careful grounds-keeping.

If you go

What: Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo

When: 7 p.m. Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: Jackson County Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point

Admission: $25 at the door, reserved seating $30

More info: www.attheexpo.com/rodeo

Because the indoor arena is a multi-use facility, and the Southern Oregon Home Show was just last weekend, Ryder said her team had to move fast to work the dirt — watering it, ripping it, then repeating the process to ensure no clods and “that none of the animal athletes get hurt.”

“If we can have good ground, usually there’s no accidents,” Ryder said.

Ryder admitted, however, that the risk a pro rider puts on themselves in the ring is part of the spectacle.

“People like to be the first on the scene of the crash,” Ryder joked.

Some 200 pro competitors are slated to strut their stuff between Friday and Saturday nights, May 13-14, at The Expo, with competitive events that include bareback horses, saddle bronc, steer wrestlers, tie-down roping, barrel racing and plenty of bull riding.

On Thursday night, top bull riders kick things off right with some 40 riders competing in the arena for the PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour, a first-time event for the Central Point rodeo. Winnings count toward their PRCA World Standings, which helps determine who qualifies for the biggest event in pro rodeo, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

“They’ve come from all over the United States to be here,” Ryder said, calling the bullriding event a “man versus beast competition.”

After the main performance Friday night will be “slack” performances for extra pro contestants hailing from as near as Central Point to as far away as Caldwell, Idaho. The slack list shows 11 tie-down roping contestants, 11 team roping contestants and 41 barrel racing competitors in what Ryder described as among the largest the rodeo has ever seen.

“What it means is our rodeo is so popular with the contestants that we overfilled,” Ryder said. “They are competing for the same dollars. ... With all the rodeos that have been shut down over the last few years, the participants are excited to be here and participate.”

Ticket sales numbers and predicted crowd turnout for the rodeo were not available Thursday afternoon, but Ryder was pulling out all the stops for the event. For instance, she described the Bend-based audio-visual technician she hired, Jason Buchanan of Pro Rodeo Sound, as one of the best in the business.

“He puts the subwoofers under the bleachers so you can feel the music,” Ryder said.

Ryder’s passion for rodeos spans decades, starting in 1979 when she was a flag carrier in the Rogue Valley Roundup.

“Rodeo’s kind of been a lifelong endeavor,” Ryder said.

On Thursday, Ryder could hardly pull away as she coordinated a variety of last-minute challenges such as figuring out which of 20 volunteer riders would carry sponsor flags.

“And then try to figure how to wash a white horse without getting her wet,” Ryder said.

The solution to that conundrum, according to Ryder, is a dry shampoo specially formulated for equine use.

When it’s showtime, it’s all worth it for Ryder. She said what she loves most is the energy when the horses are bucking and the crowd is cheering.

“It’s electric,” Ryder said.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.