New event ushers in Prescott's rodeo season
When Dewey's own Judd Mortensen cut short a successful professional bull-riding career two years ago to focus on promoting his sport, he did it for the love of his family.
Now Mortensen, 34, wants to give something back to Prescott by bolstering its already solid rodeo tradition.
This Saturday from 2-4 p.m., the Prescott Rodeo Grounds will play host to the first-ever "Prescott Bull Bash," which will feature bull riding for up-and-coming pros as well as steer and mutton riding for youngsters.
Tickets for the locally sponsored event are on sale at Savoini's Western wear shop, 1117 W. Iron Springs Road, and at the gate this weekend. Adults pay $10 for admission, while children ages 10 and under get in free.
Since the Extreme Roughstock Explosion - a pro bull, bareback and bronc riding competition - did not return this year to the Rodeo Grounds because of a problem acquiring high-dollar sponsorships in a tough economy, Mortensen wanted to help fill the void.
"We need to keep rodeo rolling in this rodeo-oriented town," said Mortensen, who rode bulls professionally for 12 years and decided to quit partly because he was suffering from post-concussive syndrome toward the end of his career. "The more the merrier."
Prescott Frontier Days General Manager J.C. Trujillo, Mortensen's father-in-law, said he is pleased to see the Bull Bash come together.
"It was a collaboration between Judd and me, and Skip Beeler, the owner of Salt River Rodeo Co., who has a ranch in Cordes Junction plum full of some of the top bucking bulls in the country," Trujillo said. "Skip is bringing his bulls here for the Bull Bash. All the rodeo people and fans are ready for an event to come in after the winter, and it should be a good one."
Mortensen already assists with promoting the annual Cowboy Capital Pro Bull Riders (PBR) Challenger Tour event - which will showcase the top riders in the sport Aug. 22 in Prescott, more than a month after the Frontier Days Rodeo ends.
Mortensen is also doing work for PBR events in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Idaho Falls, Idaho.
"I did five PBRs last year and dropped three of them because of the economy and the cost to put them on," he said. "I'm looking to do a few smaller budget deals that people can afford to go to and still have a good time."
Mortensen owns a couple of bucking bulls, but he has no desire to compete again.
"For me to be able to stay involved in the sport, we put on bull ridings," he said. "It keeps me involved, especially with the PBRs, which I really enjoy."
Mortensen and his wife, Annie, have two sons, including J.C., 8, and Jaxton, who is turning 5 this week. Since they are both following in their father's footsteps as riders, Mortensen additionally wanted to give his boys a chance to hone and develop their skills close to home in a safe environment.
A large majority of youth riders get their feet wet by riding sheep, calves and horses before moving on to bulls and bucking horses.
"My kids love it. Sometimes when I was out traveling, there would be certain bull ridings or rodeos that had a lot of kid-oriented events at them, such as steer riding and sheep riding," he said. "So, we started doing them at all of our bull ridings. We started realizing how much the crowds and fans enjoyed watching these little kids, which is where it all starts."
Saturday's competition opens with sheep riding for children ages 2-6, followed by steer riding for those 7-12, and novice bull riding for 13- to 21-year-olds. Participants will have a chance to win plaques, ribbons and cash.
The open bull riding is the main event at the Bull Bash, however. Mortensen has 25 riders coming from across Arizona, California, New Mexico, Idaho and Utah, and 30 bulls.
"I will be at a rodeo in Nevada later this week, and I don't have anything after that, so I am coming to Prescott," said pro bull rider Austin Martini of Idaho. "I sure like the bull ridings Judd puts on. They have always had really good bulls, and he invites good guys."
Competitors pay an entry fee into the open competition with some money added. The top prize will be anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000.
"We're going to have some of the young, up-and-coming bucking bulls," Mortensen said. "It's real exciting to watch them buck because they have not yet developed trained patterns for bucking like the older bulls do."