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April 17, 2014

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Rodeo brings a little country to Las Vegas

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Richard Brian

Josh Call, of Mullen, Neb., competes during the Championship Bull Riding event Friday at the South Point.

Championship Bull Riding

Cooper Kanngiesser of Zenda, Kan., competes during the Championship Bull Riding competition Friday at the South Point. Launch slideshow »

Decked out with a large white star on his shoulder – part of the red, white and blue Texas-flag shirt that covered his upper body – "Texas" Ted Keeling looked on at the dangerous sport taking place on the arena floor below.

"Bull riding is about the adrenaline rush," he said. "And for me, it's the competition."

Keeling was one of the thousands of a diverse group of fans that packed the South Point Hotel & Casino's Equestrian Center Friday night for the Championship Bull Riding competition.

The sea of people, dotted here and there with cowboy hats, looked on with anticipation as the rodeo clown got his groove on to Right Said Fred's "I'm too sexy."

Soon the next of the 40 top riders who were vying for the world championship would make his way out of the chute and try to hold on for dear life.

Fifteen-year bull riding veteran and Championship Bull Riding President Tuff Hedeman said the sport has a wide appeal for a couple of reasons.

"You don't have to be a cowboy, don't have to be from a ranch or have an agricultural background. It's eight seconds of man versus beast. It's fun, easy to understand – it's a challenge and a thrill – and for spectators, it's just fun to watch," Hedeman said.

For bull owner Lori Luckenbach of Fredricksburg, Texas, the event was about keeping up with riders she had been watching for years.

"Some of the guys here grew up where we were from so we have watched them since they were knee high," she said. "We're all glad they're doing as good as they are and have gotten this far."

Other spectators weren't as seasoned on the sport.

Jarrod Caldwell, who recently moved to Las Vegas from California, said the rodeo was his first.

"I'm here with family. It's just something fun and different to do," he said.

Caldwell later admitted the smell of manure upon entering the arena freaked him out a little and said he's not really all that into the cowboy thing.

"I don't ride bulls, I ride motorcycles," he said.

Green Valley resident Shirley Thompson and Boulder City resident Sharon Raber said they like to go to all of the rodeo events in town for the chance to socialize in a fun environment, and of course, watch the show.

As a bull and rider barreled out of the chute, Thompson looked on.

"It makes me nervous. I'm always afraid they'll get their head stomped in or something," she said.

Both ladies said they were excited to go to the concert following the event.

In conjunction with the rodeo, country artist Blake Shelton put on a free show following the culmination of the night's bull riding.

Bull riding activities continue through Saturday beginning with a fan appreciation party and a meet and greet session from 3 to 4 p.m. at the South Point's Silverado Bar.

Round two of the bull riding begins later in the evening, at 7 p.m., and will be followed by a free concert by country artist Craig Morgan.

Local resident Tina Matejek said she was enjoying the show as she stared intently at the action on the dirt floor of the arena below.

"We moved here from Texas," she said. "This is sort of like having a little of that culture in our own backyard."

Ashley Livingston can be reached at 990-8925 or [email protected].

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