HEMPSTEAD, Texas – In its few years in the PRCA, the Waller County Fair and Rodeo has become quite a showcase for the very best the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has to offer.
That will be amped up even more starting with this year’s exposition, which will feature two new rodeo events: The Eliminator, a six-man tie-down roping battle, and the 8 Second Bareback Shootout, a head-to-head competition between two of the top bareback riders in the game.
“We’re always looking to make improvements to our fair and rodeo,” said Rocky Politi, a long-time member of the Waller County Fair Board’s rodeo committee. “I think these two events are going to be a great fit for our fair and rodeo, because they say so much about Waller County and our area as a whole.
“We wanted to bring something different and entertaining to our die-hard rodeo fans.”
The Eliminator will be part of a night of calf roping that begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead. It will be headlined by a half-dozen of rodeo’s brightest tie-down ropers: reigning world champion Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, La.; Tyson Durfey, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Weatherford, Texas; Houston Hutto, a four-time NFR qualifier from Tomball, Texas; Timber Moore, a two-time NFR qualifier from Aubrey, Texas; Marty Yates, a 2014 NFR qualifier from Stephenville, Texas; and Reno Gonzalez, a two-time AQHA champion from Magnolia, Texas.
The event starts with all six competing in the first round. The cowboy with the slowest time in each round will be eliminated, with only two ropers competing in the final go-round for the championship.
“I really liked the idea behind it, and I thought it would be a unique event to be involved in,” said Durfey, a three-time Canadian champion who won the tie-down roping title at RFD-TV’s The American this past spring. “In the beginning, you don’t want to make any mistakes so you can make it back. At the end, you’re going to have to go for it. By the time we get down to the final few rounds, you’re going to see some pretty fast runs.
“It’s probably been three years since I’ve been in a situation like that. It’s definitely something the fans haven’t really seen. I think it’s a great format and should be a lot of fun to be part of.”
The 8 Second Bareback Challenge is also dubbed The Mentor vs. The Protégé, with veteran Clint Cannon matching his skills against third-year pro Richmond Champion. Cannon is one of the organizers of the Southeast Texas Bareback Riding School, which takes place every fall in Hempstead; Champion first began riding bareback horses at the school.
The challenge will take place during the second performance of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3.
“It’s going to be fun, because it’s my hometown rodeo and I get to go against Richie,” said Cannon, a four-time NFR qualifier from Waller. “I helped Richie get started, and he’s an awesome bareback rider. It’s going to be head-to-head, experience and youth.”
Champion, who won $1.1 million earlier this year during a non-PRCA sanctioned rodeo called RFD-TV’s The American, is from The Woodlands, Texas, so this also is an event that’s close to home. He has been ranked among the top 10 in the PRCA world standings much of this season and is a virtual lock to earn his first trip to the NFR.
“Richie has been a really good bareback rider for a long time,” Cannon said. “He’s always had an ability to do good. To see him progress to where he is right now going to his first NFR and winning a million bucks is awesome.
“He’s a very humble kid and rides really good.”
That’s plenty of incentive for the veteran Cannon, who has multiple RodeoHouston titles to go with his NFR qualifications. He’s battled a few injuries this season, but he’s ready for his opportunity to shine in Waller County.
“I know youth is going to take over one day, but I’m hoping to hold that off a little while longer,” he said. “This is going to be a lot of fun.”
That’s just what fans want to see.