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By JOY DAVIS-PLATT
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 30, 2000
BROOKSVILLE -- Horns and hooves will fly this week at the sixth annual Fourth of July Bullriding Blowout in Brooksville.
Thirty-five professional bull riders from throughout the Southeast will compete Tuesday at the Hernando County Fairgrounds for $5,000 in prize money and to qualify for the Professional Bull Riders Finals, set for January in Montgomery, Ala.
Because bull riders often meet the same bulls at qualifying events during their yearlong struggle to qualify for the national finals, they keep close tabs on the animals, said show organizer Casey Walker.
"Lots of guys keep notes in their computers on the different bulls and how they buck," Walker said. "They want to know what they're up against."
Among riders, bulls fall into categories like "tight," "eliminator" and "rank."
"If he's rank, that means he's a hard-bucking son of a gun," said Walker, who has been a bull rider with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association for 15 years.
But for a bull rider, a bad bull is a good opportunity.
"Bull riders like to ride the bad ones because they know they'll get a check," said Walker. "The harder they buck, the better cowboys like them."
Many of the bulls at the Blowout come from the Silver Spurs Rodeo Company in Kissimmee, which provides animals for the national finals in Las Vegas, Walker said.
Though the event began as a small one, Walker said it has built a reputation and increased the caliber of competition. This year, he expects the Blowout to draw a crowd of about 3,000 people.
"If you go to a rodeo, you expect to see comedy acts and music. People who come for a bull riding show want to see bull riders," he said. "So we put our money into stock and prize money to get better cowboys out there."
Pre-bull ride entertainment will include one-man band Reece Thomas and country singer Reanna Walker, who have both performed at Five Star Rodeo events.
Proceeds from the bull riding event will benefit the Hernando County 4-H Foundation. Hernando County 4-H clubs will also offer watermelon, boiled peanuts, lemonade, semi-frozen soft drinks, snow cones, hot dogs and hamburgers, water and soda to raise money.
Nancy Moores, 4-H agent for Hernando County Cooperative Extension Service, said the money helps the foundation's camp scholarship fund.
In Hernando County this summer, about 100 children between the ages of 8 and 18 will attend day, weekend and weeklong 4-H camps, she said. Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who need them.
"We make sure that everyone who needs help, gets it," she said. "We can keep just about any kid busy from June until the first day of school."
Despite the absence of Independence Day fireworks, Moores said the event has been very successful in recent years.
"This is a safe way to spend the holiday as long as you're in the stands and not on a bull," she said.
Gates open at 6 p.m., and bull riding begins at 7 on Tuesday. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the gate. Admission for children ages 5 to 12 is $6, and children younger than 5 are admitted free. The Hernando County Fairgrounds are on U.S. 41, just south of Brooksville. For information, call (352) 754-4433.
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