LOVINGTON, N.M. – Rodeo is nothing new to the folks in Lea County; many know all the intricacies that go into each event.
The Lea County Fair and Rodeo features the very best bull riders in the world on one night during Lea County Xtreme Bulls, set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at Jake McClure Arena.
“It’s an extraordinary event,” said Greg Massey, chairman of the rodeo committee. “We’re going to have the top 40 bull riders all here competing. Rodeo fans will get to see their favorites, but it also draws a bit of a different crowd, people that enjoy thrill-seekers.
“Our Xtreme Bulls has grown every year. It’s been a big hit.”
The 2014 championship was a huge hit for Tim Bingham, a 23-year-old bull rider from Honeyville, Utah. He won both go-rounds – he scored 89.5 points to win the first round on Salt River Rodeo’s Lucky Dog, then followed with a 91 on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Lineman. It was the perfect finish for a solid week on the ProRodeo trail.
“That was my first Division I win,” he said of the elite level of Xtreme Bulls competition, which also features a Division II level. “Division I events throw out the big money.”
That’s true. By dominating the event in Lovington last August, Bingham pocketed $11,577. His big-time run began the week before by winning the Division II event in Dodge City, Kan. He also earned paydays in Abilene, Kan., and Sidney, Iowa, to earn more than $18,000 in eight days.
“By winning both rounds, I maxed out on what I could get in Lovington,” said Bingham, who parlayed that run and a few others into his first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s premier championship that crowns world champions each December. “That win threw me up in the standings so high that I was ensured I was going to make the NFR. There was no stress needed.
“That threw me so far off the bubble, I knew I was going. At the time, it moved me into contention for the world title. I had a legitimate shot at winning the world title with that big boost.”
In rodeo, dollars not only pay bills, they also count as championship points. Contestants in each event that finish with the most money are crowned world champions. Bingham ended the 2014 campaign with $115,670, good enough for seventh place in the world standings. The Xtreme Bulls tour made a big difference in how the Utah cowboy finished the season.
“It’s very important, because they pay good and it’s just bull riding,” Bingham said. “In the money I won last year, $20,000 came in the Xtreme Bulls. It made a big difference to my standings and placing in the world.”
The tour also is important for fans who love a good show. The Lea County Xtreme Bulls features the top 40 bull riders in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association competing in one go-round. The cowboys with the top 12 scores advance to the championship round, and the overall winner is the cowboy with the best aggregate score on two rides.
“The fans who come to our Xtreme Bulls tell us how much they enjoy it, so it’s a valuable part of our fair and rodeo,” Massey said. “It is an awesome production to watch.”
Yes, it is.