Bulldoggers don’t wrestle with their decisions to compete at Idaho rodeo
GOODING, Idaho – It’s been more than 15 years, but Hunter Cure remembers his first visit to this community.
“I went to Gooding my rookie year, and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Cure, a two-time world champion steer wrestler from Holliday, Texas. “I’ve never seen a rodeo where the crowd got so into it and engaged with the contestants the way they do in Gooding.”
That’s why he returns every August and why he tells other steer wrestlers to find their ways to this southern Idaho town. In fact, more than 100 bulldoggers put their names in the hat to compete at this year’s rodeo, set for Thursday, Aug. 18-Saturday, Aug. 20, with a special “Beauty and the Beast” performance set for Wednesday, Aug. 17. All performances take place at 8 p.m. at Andy James Arena.
“It’s always one of my favorites,” said Cure, who is on his way to a sixth National Finals Rodeo qualification this year. “Since they continue to, A, add more money and, B, add to their hospitality over the years, it makes it an easy decision to go back to Gooding.
“They have a live band, and they have other attractions for us. The mural that’s painted around the bottom of the arena is something you don’t see anywhere else.”
The concrete is painted in the design of a hand-tooled strap of leather, and it serves a dual purpose: It’s attractive, but it also covers the gray concrete so the animals can see the barrier that’s in place.
The biggest attraction to the hundreds of contestants that converge on Gooding every year is the crowd the rodeo attracts. Fellow bulldogger Bridger Anderson remembers his performance in 2020, when his 3.8-second run helped him finish in a tie for third place; the $2,300 he earned that summer helped him earn his first NFR qualification.
“I sealed the deal to make the finals in Gooding,” he said, smiling at his recollection. “I got to be beer worthy. It was on pink night, and I got a pink rubber ducky, then it was off to haul butt to the next rodeo.”
A pink rubber ducky is memorable, and that may have been the best beer he’d had that season. Securing any NFR bid is a big deal, and to do it at a place where the crowd finds exceptional feats as “beer worthy” makes it even better.
“I like being beer worthy, but I feel I can be beer worthy if I suck,” Cure said with a laugh.
It’s true. Being beer worthy isn’t just for winning rides or fast times; it can also be for wild buckoffs or big wrecks.
There’s also something about the local organizers, who work each year to make things better.
“I feel like they try more than 90 percent of the (rodeo) committees out there,” Cure said. “The only reason they get outdone by 10 percent is because of the resources and the size of the venue that a small town may not have.
“Calgary can do more than Gooding, but for its size, Gooding does much more than other committees out there. They try hard, and they put on a good show.”
That effort is recognized by the contestants who make their livings in professional rodeo.
“I always try to start the week earlier and go to Hermiston (Oregon) and start my Northwest run there,” he said. “With Gooding being in a close proximity to Caldwell (Idaho) and (other rodeos) up that way, Gooding is going to be the stop for every guy making the NFR.”