HERMISTON — Like many great ideas, the Farm-City Pro Rodeo was conceived at a party.
It was 1987 at a celebration for local saddle bronc rider Butch Knowles’ average championship at the National Final Rodeo when the topic of conversation turned toward bringing the PRCA to Hermiston once a year.
With a successful junior rodeo already utilizing the local arena and drawing good crowds, Knowles and fellow PRCA saddle bronc rider David Bothum knew there was a way.
They just needed a little nudge.
“It was actually our wives Cyd (Bothum) and Mary (Knowles) that came up with the idea,” said Bothum on the eve of the opening of the 28th Farm-City Pro Rodeo. “I think they guessed we’d be home a few more days each year.”
Bothum and Knowles — “It was more Butch,” says David — took the idea and ran with it, and found a community eager to get on board.
Today the rodeo occupies a spot on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, and attracts the best competitors and stock from the PRCA. It’s something the community should, and does, take a great amount of pride in hosting each year.
“The satisfaction a guy gets from it is on Saturday night when you see all the people smiling and having fun, and all the pictures,” said Bothum, who as a competitor he used to travel to more than 100 rodeos a year before the PRCA put a limit on entries per season.
“The community has been unbelievable. If it wasn’t for the community it wouldn’t be what it is today,” he added. “It’s not like you have to ask, they ask you. Hermiston is very amazing about that. There’s not many communities that would give like Hermiston does.”
The Farm-City Pro Rodeo is clearly a hit with contestants as well, and 476 cowboys and cowgirls will compete in Hermiston this week for a share of the purse. The Farm-City puts in $13,500 per event which gets added to entry fees to pay winners. The total typically tops $200,000.
Several big names are scheduled to compete each night with performances starting at 7:45 p.m. General admission is $17, which also includes admission to the Umatilla County Fair. Slack will be held each afternoon at 2 p.m.
Here’s a short list of who to watch each night:
• WEDNESDAY — The top three cowboys in the PRCA world all-around standings all go tonight as Russell Cardoza of Terrebonne looks to hold off Josh Peek of Pueblo, Colorado, and his own team roping partner Dustin Bird of Cut Bank, Montana. Cardoza (tie-down, steer wrestling, team roping) leads Peek (tie-down, steer wrestling) by $4,600 entering the week with Bird (team roping) another $200 back.
No. 5 bareback rider R.C. Landingham is looking for his first WNFR qualification and first $100,000 season. He’s already surpassed his 2015 winnings with $79,178, and the Hat Creek, California, rider who competed out of Pendleton during his high school years will get on Flying Diamond’s Duble Dippin.
Seven of the top 20 saddle bronc riders will compete with No. 2 Rusty Wright drawing Korkow Rodeos’ Free Sample.
Two of the top five steer wrestlers and three of the top seven barrel racers are also scheduled.
• THURSDAY — No. 1 bareback rider Tim O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa, will get on Calgary Stampede’s Unfortunate Carma and 2014 world champion Spencer Wright looks to get back into the running in saddle bronc atop Calgary Stampede’s Waning Moon.
Defending Farm-City champion and No. 4 saddle bronc rider Zeke Thurston will get on Kesler Rodeos’ Nickels & Dimes.
Locals Steve Hoffman (Hermiston) and Seth Hopper (Stanfield) will compete in tie-down, and the son (Blake Knowles) and nephew (Trevor Knowles) of Farm-City co-founder Butch Knowles will compete in steer wrestling.
Pendleton’s Cain Smith will get on Corey & Lange’s Chunky during a bull riding session that also features defending Farm-City all-around champion Garrett Smith of Rexburg, Idaho.
• FRIDAY — Five of the world’s top 15 team roping partners will take the arena, as will four-time world champion barrel racer Sherry Cervi of Marana, Arizona.
No. 5 saddle bronc rider Heith Allan DeMoss will tangle with Korkow Rodeos’ Rekker.
• SATURDAY — Five of the top 20 bareback riders are scheduled, with No. 2 Orin Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba, drawing Calgary Stampede’s Xceptional Margarita.
World No. 6 steer wrestler Jacob Talley of Keatchie, Louisiana, looks to continue his dream season in a section that also includes locals Travis Taruscio (Stanfield) and Dalton Massey (Hermiston).
Defending Farm-City champion team roper Kaleb Driggers (Albany, Georgia) is No. 1 this season with partner Junior Nogueira (Burleson, Texas), and they’ll try to add to their lead. Hermiston’s Callahan Crossley will compete in barrel racing and Hermiston bull rider Cody Ford will try to best a section that includes two top-10 riders when he gets on Corey & Lange’s Dirty Harry.
Contact Matt Entrup at email@example.com or (541) 966-0838.