Cowboys love Big Spring rodeo

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BIG SPRING, Texas – Jeff Askey has a little secret: He likes west Texas in June.


He’s found a honey hole in Howard County. It’s called the Big Spring Cowboy Reunion and Rodeo, and it’s ripe with opportunities for the greatest cowboys and cowgirls in the sport. Askey is definitely one of them. He’s an elite bull rider with six qualifications to the National Finals Rodeo. This past December, he earned $104,000 in Las Vegas and finished the year eighth in the world standings.

Part of what’s earned Askey his last two NFR bids came in Big Spring. He won the title two years ago and finished second last year. He plans to return for this year’s event, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20-Saturday, June 22, at the Rodeo Bowl.

“It’s a decent circuit rodeo and one I enjoy going to,” said Askey, 36, of Athens, Texas. “Pete Carr has a lot of good bulls, and it’s one of those rodeos I always look forward to. You stand a good chance to win some good money. Not a lot of guys go to it.”

That’s about to change.

Volunteers who produce the annual rodeo are doing all the right things to attract more cowboys and cowgirls to town for the competition. Committee members have increased the overall purse exponentially over the last couple of years, and that includes a raise in local dollars this year. The Big Spring rodeo offers $5,000 in “added money” per event, which is mixed with contestants’ entry fees to make up the overall payout.

The popularity of Big Spring is growing among the contestants who make their livings in the sport. In addition to playing on the biggest stages of ProRodeo, Askey loves the idea of the smaller events that established the sport’s credibility. He competes in the Texas Circuit, which are events and contestants primarily from the Lone Star State. Money earned at circuit rodeos counts toward those standings, and the top 12 in each event will advance to the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo in October.

“A lot of guys have skipped over that rodeo because there are rodeos out West, but I try to put off leaving until the end of June so I can get to Big Spring,” Askey said. “It’s on my way, so why not try to get some circuit money earned?”

Organizers are planning on a growing number of contestants for this year’s event and for that trend to continue as the payout increases. Between the big money up for grabs and the incredible animal athletes from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, there are great incentives for cowboys and cowgirls to make their way to Howard County.

“That’s an area of the country that is known for cowboy, people that gave their lives to rodeo,” said Sam Powers, a third-generation cowboy from Sonora, Texas, who is the reigning all-around champion in Big Spring who just got married this past weekend. “If it’s within three hours of the house, my dad’s been there and my granddad’s been there. It’s like a family tradition to go there.”

It’s just one of the reasons why the talented cowboy loves Big Spring.

“I won my first check there,” he said. “That was my first PRCA rodeo. I love the community and the people who live around Big Spring. It’s two and a half hours from my house, so it’s not hard to go to one in west Texas.

“It’s also a good rodeo in the circuit. You can make a pretty good move if you have success there.”

Powers is a timed-event cowboy. He competes in steer wrestling, steer roping, team roping and tie-down roping. Askey is from the other end of the spectrum. They both have a competitive nature, but they have different approaches to how they play the game. Powers hauls multiple horses to each rodeo and will ride a different one depending on the discipline. Askey is matched with his bull via a random, computer-generated draw.

In each case, both men must rely on their animals and their own talents to find success. Carr and his team will have animals in each event that give everyone as equal an opportunity as possible.

“Pete and (operations manager) Billy Jones have put together a good set of bulls, the kind you want to get on,” Askey said. “They buck hard, and you have a chance to score a lot of points. You don’t really have eliminators or junk; it’s just really good rodeo-, cowboy-type bulls.”

For the competitors, all they want is a chance. Fans understand they get to see amazing things in the arena, and the top talent will make sure they are part of an event that gives them the right opportunities.

“There are a lot of cowboys that come from that area,” Powers said. “It’s a cowboys’ rodeo, and it’s a rodeo that doesn’t do anything but try to get better all the time. I wish there were more rodeos in Texas that would do the work that Big Spring does to get better. You can tell a lot about a rodeo that puts in that much work to just get better.”


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