The 95th Clovis Rodeo

April 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The 95th Clovis Rodeo kicked off Thursday night with a round of professional bull riding. A big crowd paid $20 a ticket to get in on the first of four nights. The dramatic kicks and twists of bull riding are a hallmark of the first night of the rodeo these days. On this night, former world champion Mike Lee got the crowd riled up with a good run until the bull tossed him and horned him in the head before he could limp away.

"You don't want to mess with the horns, they say," said Lee. "But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do."

Professional bull riders are gaining in popularity across the country and they've altered the landscape on the first night at the Clovis Rodeo.

"This is our first time coming on a Thursday night," said Monique Gentry.

Cars lined Clovis Ave. to get into the rodeo grounds, and lines wrapped around the parking lot to buy tickets as a crowd of more than 6,000 packed the stands.

It may be a tough economy all over the country right now, but here at the Clovis Rodeo they say, 'No bull. This is about as good as they've ever done.'

"You know, we were pretty worried, but I think as you can see here, our crowd's great," said rodeo director Dan Rigsby. "I think people are just staying close to home and we have a great value. I mean, where can you go for a rodeo and a concert for $20?"

Fans said the rodeo is a must-see, and they're not really thinking about their wallets when they walk through the front gates.

"Not really," said Tami Cowger. "It's just kind of a tradition in my family. My father-in-law and my husband work the rodeo, so we have to be here no matter what."

"We come to the rodeo regardless," said Anna Escalante. "We've never missed a year."

And the rodeo creates its own mini-economy. Vendors made plenty of money, selling popular items for a night at the rodeo, like beer and chewing tobacco.

Across the street, a cigar business tried to attract customers on their way into the rodeo and the businesses of Old Town Clovis took advantage of more car and foot traffic.

"This brings a lot of dollars to the community," said Rigsby.

And the dollars spent there may be even more exciting than the bucks out on the dirt.

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