PHILLIPSBURG — Phillipsburg becomes “rodeo central” during the first week of August.
That’s when nearly 400 cowboys and cowgirls will turn their trucks and trailers towards north central Kansas, for the 87th edition of Kansas’ Biggest Rodeo.
Three hundred ninety-eight contestants are scheduled to compete, beginning with slack on August 2 and 3, and the rodeo performances on August 4-6.
Among those cowboys and cowgirls are world champions, past and present, current leaders in the world standings, and north central Kansans as well.
Reigning world champion Sage Kimzey comes to town firmly in the driver’s seat in the 2016 PRCA world standings. The Strong City, Okla. bull rider is a two-time world champ (2014-2015) and has a $22,000 lead over the number two man, Scottie Knapp. This is the third time Kimzey will have competed in Philipsburg, and he’s glad to come to town. “It’s the history my whole family has in Phillipsburg,” he said, referring to his dad, Ted, a former bullfighter and barrel man who has worked the Phillipsburg rodeo. “Going there, everybody is super nice, and I love whenever Randy Corley is announcing. He’s a close family friend. It’s a fun rodeo to be at.”
The twenty-one year old is riding the best he’s ever done in his three-year PRCA career. He’s covering a little more than 70% of the bulls he rides, which is exceptional; the average bull rider makes the eight second buzzer on about half of his bulls. He’s focused on improving. “Either I win, or learn, or do both on every single bull I get on,” he said. “I absolutely love every part about the sport. It’s something I study all the time, something I love to study. It’s my life, it really is. It’s what I love to do. And when you’re doing something you love to do, it’s not hard to dedicate all that time to it.”
Kimzey will ride on Fri., August 5. His older sister, Dusta, will run barrels in slack on Wed., August 3.
Reigning world champion saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley will ride, as will the current world champion tie-down roper Caleb Smidt.
The leader in the world standings in every event, as of press time, will compete in Phillipsburg: Tim O’Connell (bareback riding), Jason Thomas (steer wrestling), Crawley (saddle bronc riding), Luke Brown and Jake Long (team roping), Hunter Herrin (tie-down roping), Mary Burger (barrel racing) and Kimzey (bull riding).
Norton resident and barrel racer Deb Christy estimates she’s never missed a year at the Phillipsburg rodeo, and thinks she probably came to the rodeo with her parents when she was three months old. Her dad Bud Forell was a saddle bronc rider, bareback rider, and steer wrestler who competed in Phillipsburg and was also a member of the Phillipsburg Rodeo Association. She will run barrels during slack on Wed., August 3 on a horse she bought as a weanling and trained herself. Blitz, an eight year old bay whose registered name is Dashin on the Blitz, will be her mount for the rodeo.
Blitz is a full brother to Choc, a horse who carried her to her best year ever, in 2008, when she did very well in the regional rodeo associations and finished second at Phillipsburg to Mary Burger, who went on to be the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association world champion that year.
“He’s no slouch,” Christy said, of Blitz. He is her secondary horse; she will ride him to give her other horse, Ped, some time off.
Blitz is less experienced than Ped, but “he’s actually more athletic than Ped,” Christy said. “He’s a little green yet, and that’s why I’m seasoning him at these rodeos.” He may have less experience, but he has character. “He’s very athletic and very gritty. If I was going to define him by one word, it is gritty. Blitz will always give it to you and he tries so hard. It makes it fun.” Christy’s husband Steve is a member of the rodeo committee.
Jenna Rolland, a Norton resident, will also compete in Phillipsburg. The Hays native will make her first trip to Phillipsburg as a contestant; she attended last year’s rodeo as a fan of her boyfriend, Tyler Brockman, who team roped. Rolland, a high school English teacher at Northern Valley School in Almena, graduated from Hays High School in 2006, and from Ft. Hays State University five years later. She has her Master of Arts in Teaching with an English endorsement from Hastings (Neb.) College. Rolland competed in high school and college rodeo. She will run barrels during slack on Wed., August 3.
Associate memberships are available for sale. They are $125 and include a rib dinner at the rodeo grounds during slack on Wed., August 3, preferred parking, and raffle tickets for a 2016 John Deere Gator and two trips to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. They can be purchased from First National Bank, Matteson Motors, Cliff’s Welding, and rodeo committee members.
Slack, the extra competition that doesn’t fit into the performances, will be at 7 pm on August 2-3. It is open to the public.
Performances are August 4-5-6 and begin at 8 pm each night.
For more information, visit the rodeo’s website at KansasBiggestRodeo.com or call 785.543.2448.