Party With Your Boots On - Behind the Scenes at RODEOHOUSTON

Nearly 2.5 million attend the Houston Livestock Rodeo and events annually. For more than three weeks NRG Park, home of Texans football, takes on an electrifying atmosphere with a spectacular array of talent and Western Heritage. Combine that with amazing athletic performances by the best cowboys and livestock in the world and you have RodeoHouston. 

After an exciting journey, the top 10 cowboys and cowgirls in each event left it all on the NRG Stadium floor, but in the end, only one bull rider emerged victorious, leaving with more than $62,450 and a Championship title at the RodeoHouston BP Super Series Championship Round, Saturday, March 21.

Reigning CBR and PRCA World Champion, Sage Kimzey bucked and leaped his way into the Championship spot with a score of 93. Kimzey said winning RodeoHouston has been a dream of his since he was 3-years-old.

"There are no words to explain how I feel right now," Kimzey said. "It's an honor to participate in such a prestigious rodeo."

RodeoHouston is not a destination, it is a journey. A trip to the finals takes three rounds of preliminary action, two days of semi-finals, one round of “anybody can still win” Wildcard riding and then it happens. 

This year an unprecedented 18 CBR cowboys were invited to participate as contestants in the RodeoHouston BP Super Series Bull Riding competition. Ty Wallace, Clayton Foltyn, Cole Echols, Tanner Bothwell, Chandler Bownds, Elliot Jacoby, Neil Holmes, Aaron Pass, Reid Barker, Corey Maier, Ardie Maier, Sage Kimzey, Brennon Eldred, Tate Stratton, Joe Frost, Cody Teel, Wesley Silcox, and Steve Woolsey all packed their bags and headed to H-Town for at least three days in hopes that their three rounds would get them to the semifinal round and eventually see their name on the bracket for the ten man Championship Round which is comprised of 8 semifinal round qualifiers and two qualifiers from the Wild Card round.

At 3:00 pm on Championship Saturday the corridors were bustling with athletes and volunteers, but only two men lurking around the pens where the bulls were. Lyndal Hurst and Scott Pickens would flank the entire pen of bulls for the Championship and final four rounds. Working hard with RodeoHouston stock contractor Cervi Championship Rodeo, Hurst and Pickens would be the bull men the riders would have to get past to advance in the last week. Reiterating the hard work in taking care of the bucking stock in Houston, Hurst and Pickens both agreed there is nothing like bucking your bulls in front of 75,000 people per performance and neither felt the crowd was a distraction to their bull’s performances. By the end of RodeoHouston almost 200 outs were attributed to the bull riding competition.

After being escorted into the lower corridors I was parked by a lovely media assistant who politely reminded me I was not to move, but that was fine with me because soon thereafter Lyndal, Scott, and most of the bull riders appeared and all were more than willing to talk about their RodeoHouston experience. 

Surprising to me, Joe Frost was first to appear from the locker room. He was happy with his draw, 714 Summer Nights and that he was slotted to ride last in the round; he was pleased with that positioning. Drawing a bull that had only been covered twice since June of 2014, Frost posted an 86 which would advance him to the final four. 

Aaron Pass was next to come around the corner in his usual laid back style. Pass was one of the two who advanced from the Wild Card round which gives exhibitors a second chance after being eliminated. Having not looked at the draw yet, he was glad I had it in my hand to see that he would attempt, 817 Sandy’s Dream, a quick smile emerged as he knew the popular bull, a son of Shanghai. Pass not only attempted him he won the round at 91 points. 

Feeling like a hitchhiker thumbing, I was able to snag Cody Teel next who had ridden all four of his bulls thus far to make it to the final round. In his usually prepared way, Teel knew he had Lyndal Hurst’s unridden Comanche Moon. While Hurst is not big on predictions, he led me to believe this match up would be interesting. He was right. The bull turned back immediately and began spinning into Teel’s hand; within a few rotations Teel was in the well and could not get out. Teel’s day would end shortly after it started, but he still walked away with 7,932.00 from his Houston experience which is better than the two previous years where he left on a stretcher or in a wheelchair.

Sage would be the final contestant I spoke with prior to the event and he was all business. Riding five for five at this point in RodeoHouston he was confident and focused, as usual. He would advance on Diamond S’s Squeeze Play, a former NFR bull ridden about 30 percent of the times he is attempted. Kimzey would ride him easily for 86 points.

Bobby Welsh and Casey Huckabee would post an 87 and 83 respectively with Welsh advancing to the final four to compete against Kimzey, Pass, and Frost.

All scores are erased from the day and the final four is a winner take all format.  What the pressure must be like for these athletes between the final round and the final four. Riding for a $50,000 purse, these cowboys took their positions behind the chutes.

Joe Frost was out first and had a handful that lasted 6.22 seconds. Kimzey’s 93 point performance thrilled the 80,000 fans, including Brad Paisley who was up after the bull riding. Welsh would buck off at 2.41 followed by Pass.  

A cowboy on the Texans’ field, Kimzey would steal the show as the only bull rider to ride every bull he got on in NRG Stadium.

“What I like about RodeoHouston, it’s a win or go home event. Unlike anywhere else, its prestige and hospitality, it just doesn’t get much better than this”, said Kimzey.


Top Four (total 2015 RodeoHouston winnings)

Sage Kimzey, Strong City, Oklahoma — $62,450

Aaron Pass, Kaufman, Texas — $18,033

Bobby Welsh, Gillette, Wyoming — $16,733

Joe Frost, Goodwell, Oklahoma — $17,933