Rodeo time at Norris-Penrose
Also extra activities abound in Ride for the Brand, Pikes Peak or Bust

       The annual double-dip of rodeos arrives at the Norris-Penrose Event Center starting Saturday, July 5 with Ride for the Brand and continuing July 9-12 with Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Days. Dustin Weist hangs on in the Bronc Riding competition during the 2007 Ride for the Brand Rodeo at the Norris-Penrose 
Event Center. The working cowboys rodeo will be July 5 this year, followed by Pikes Peak or Bust July 9-12.
Westside Pioneer file photo
       The first is part of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA) tour, while the latter offers one of the top 20 purses in the Pro Rodeo circuit, according to Norris-Penrose manager Bill Miller. The facility is at 1045 W. Rio Grande St.
       Both rodeos also include numerous extra activities. A big part of this year's Ride for the Brand is the benefit auction Friday, July 4 for Trey and Tyler Thompson of the Thompson Ranch in Texas. The brothers, competitors in previous Ride for the Brand rodeos, had been on their way to check out a ranch grass fire in May when their vehicle collided with an eighteen-wheeler that had lost its brakes. Both men suffered severe burns and other injuries.
       The auction will be at 6 p.m. July 4 at Norris-Penrose. Participants will be able to bid on thousands of dollars worth of donated gear, clothing, jewelry, art, music, books and furnishings.
       The rodeo itself will start at 5:30 p.m. July 5, involving some 100 cowboys from 25 working ranches in western states in six events that replicate typical ranch endeavors.
       Ticket prices are between $5 and $30 and are available at Tickets West or at the gate.
       The ticket is also good for a pre-rodeo "Red, White and Blue Concert" (from 3:30 to 5 p.m.) featuring Western musicians Don Edwards and Sons and Brothers, and cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell.
       Another preliminary "Brand" activity - new this year - will be the Chuckwagon Champions Challenge at Norris-Penrose July 5 at 4 p.m. This is a judged competition to name the best of six cook teams. The public can sample the fare for $15.
       Proceeds from WRCA help cover health costs for working cowboys.
       Pikes Peak or Bust
       This rodeo is in its 68th year, but the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, its non-profit sponsor, is still looking for ways to improve it. The main changes this year are not in the rodeo competition itself, but in its purse (up $13,000 this year to $91,000 total), its dates (instead of a Sunday finale, there will be two Saturday shows) and a slew of extra activities.
       Gone this year will be the carnival that previously took up all of the Norris-Penrose stadium's south parking lot during Pikes Peak or Bust. Instead, there will be some "bouncy rides" for children as well as numerous western-esque offerings - some free, some with a cost - covering about half the south lot and areas near the box office, according to Bill Miller, manager of Norris-Penrose. Among these will be the return of the "Mutton-Bustin' event for kids, which has proven "highly popular," he said in an interview this week. For $10, under a large tent, youngsters age 4-6 under 55 pounds can ride "all the sheep they want," he said.
       A traditional part of Pikes Peak or Bust will return - the 60th Kiddie Dress-Up Review at 9:30 a.m. July 12, in which children age 3-8 wearing western styles compete for prizes.
       Featuring nearly 600 competitors, the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo will start at 7 p.m. each night, with an additional matinee Saturday, July 12 at 12:30 p.m. At each show, the first half-hour will be devoted to a "Wild West Show," in which "a wagon gets blown up every night," Miller said. Plus, the kids judged the best seven mutton-busters each night will be invited to encore their rides in the stadium during the rodeo.
       "We're not in the rodeo business," Miller commented. "We're in the entertainment business."
       Other extra activities this year (several of which are new) will be an opportunity to ride a camel; race miniature remote cars; view a NASCAR vehicle; learn roping (possibly from trick roper Cowboy Steve or one of several rodeo queens who will be on hand from different western states); ride a mechanical bull; view the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site's refurbished, horse-drawn sprinkler wagon and its blacksmiths; visit a Mountain Man encampment; enjoy Plains Indian dancers; observe a chuckwagon cook-off; watch trick pigs (whose stunts include shooting a basketball); and enjoy a mock robbery of the Norris-Penrose box office, which (according to the script) is to be thwarted by Melissa Dragoo of Larkspur, the 2007 world champion in a competition for shooting from the back of a running horse.
       Tickets are available through Tickets West or at Norris-Penrose.

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