The 18th Annual Bull Riding Challenge is coming to the Graham Complex at the Olmsted County Fairground in Rochester this Friday and Saturday night. The even begins at 7:30 each night, with the doors opening at 6:00.
A wild, eight-second ride is all that will stand between experience bull riders and cash prizes. Of course, that wild ride will come atop a 1,200 to 2,000 pound bull. It’s guaranteed to be a lot of fun for the whole family to watch.
Matt Merritt is a veteran rodeo entertainer, which he said used to be called a rodeo clown. He said, “the bulls are legitimate athletes, and they have their own personalities. They’re amazing when you get a chance to sit and watch how the work.” He said, “The bulls have their own way of doing things and their job is to simply spill the rider as quickly as possible.”
Matt Merritt is a professional rodeo entertainer who will appear at a bullfighting event this weekend in Rochester (photo courtesy of Matt Merritt)
If you aren’t familiar with riding, you may be surprised to learn there’s no saddle and no halter either. It’s much more challenging than that.
Merritt said, “The rider climbs on the bull with a braided bullrope that has a handle, similar to a bullwhip. The rope is wrapped around the body of the animal, behind the front legs, while the cowboy grips the handle. The rope is pulled tight, which snugs the handle down on the hand.”
Next, the excess portion of the rope is held in the rider’s open hand. Merritt said, “The rope isn’t actually tied to the bull. It’s wrapped around the animal’s body, so the rider’s strength is what holds him on the bull.” He then has to stay balanced on the bull, and Merritt said, “It’s all the strength of his leg and groin muscles that keep him on the bull’s back.”
It’s a big challenge. “If the rider touches the bull with his free hand, he’s disqualified,” said Merritt.
Matt Merritt, pro rodeo entertainer, plays to the crowd at a recent event (photo courtesy of Matt Merritt)
Merritt is a veteran rodeo entertainer. His job is to keep the crowd entertained, and to keep the audience from realizing the show has come to a pause as they manage 40 bulls. “They’ll buck ten bulls in a section, and then they have to reset the bulls for the next ten rides. My job is to keep the show flowing with crowd interaction, humor, dancing, and keep the crowd from realizing the show has come to a temporary stop,” said Merritt.
He said the job has changed over the years. Bull fighting is no longer part of the rodeo clown’s job. “Years ago, when rodeo first started, there was one guy in the ring that did it all. As the sport has developed, bullfighting has become a separate job from entertaining,” said Merritt.
Merritt said he’s been in the rodeo business for roughly fifteen years now. “I started when I was about fifteen years old. I’ve been all over the country, and have gone to Canada and Australia as well,” said Merritt. “Rodeo was common back in northwest Louisiana where I grew up. I found a way to fit in and not have to risk myself quite like the bull fighters do.”
Overflow viewing will be offered this year. Folks who want to get away from the crowd or find a better view, you can go to an adjacent arena, to an area with concessions and bar service.
Friday night is “Tough Enough to wear Pink Night.”
For more information, check out the MF Production website at www.RochesterBullRiding.com. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to show support for breast cancer awareness. Sponsors have agreed to donate money for each person that wears pink.
Other events include a dance both nights, plus, don’t miss the fan favorite event Mexican Poker.