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Gerry Rodeo begins tonight

Photo by Paul Cooley The free kids’ rodeo on Saturday afternoon is one way that the Gerry Fire Department is giving back to the fans who support them

GERRY — “We’re back, bigger and better than ever” were the words of Tom Atwell, rodeo chairman, as he watched this tiny rural town transform almost overnight into a bustling “city” in preparation for the kickoff tonight of the Gerry Volunteer Fire department’s 76th annual PRCA rodeo after a year’s absence due to the pandemic.

Dozens of pickup trucks, horse trailers, RV’s and tents fill the rodeo location as approximately 240 professional cowboys and cowgirls from more than 30 states and Canada are arriving. The stock contractor, Painted Pony Championship Rodeo, has transported more than 100 head of outstanding stock via tractor-trailer from their ranch in Lake Lucerne, as well as setting up the fences and chute gates.

The smoke is rolling from the pits, filling the air with the aroma of more than 1,200 pounds of beef that is being prepared over wood fires for the dinners beginning at 5 tonight. The last of the more than 20 vendors are setting up their tents and trailers where they will offer many kinds of food items, souvenirs and Western wear. About 150 volunteers are scrambling to put the finishing touches on what Atwell says is the best prepared they have ever been for opening night.

Familiar names are back to provide the fans with a top-notch rodeo experience. One of rodeo’s top announcers, Greg Simas, who has performed around the world, will be back in action from his seat on horseback in the arena to keep the fans informed of the action. Pro rodeo’s most decorated funnyman and specialty act performer, Keith Isley, will be making his second appearance here to entertain the crowds with his humor and trained horses. Bullfighter Phil Hussman is a longtime favorite in Gerry as he again will thrill the fans with his daring moves to protect the cowboys during the bull riding event.

The competition, with $50,000 in prize money, begins at 8 tonight, continues nightly through Saturday and features the seven traditional rodeo events — saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, cowgirls’ barrel racing, and bull riding — as well as cowgirls’ breakaway roping for the first time in Gerry. The dinners are served each evening from 5-8, and the Midway also opens at 5.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Kids are getting special recognition in several ways, beginning on opening night when any children from ages 3-12 can be admitted to the rodeo for $5 by bringing two nonperishable food items, which Rural Ministries will distribute to food banks in both the north and south county.

Additions have been made to the Midway to provide more fun for the kids. These include pony rides, face painting, sand art, and a Pick-A-Duck game, where they can win prizes. On Saturday afternoon at 4 there will be a free kids’ rodeo where kids ages 3-8 can dress up like cowboys and cowgirls and play rodeo related games under the supervision of rodeo personnel with prizes awarded to the best dressed little cowboy and cowgirl. There will also be an autograph and photo session with the rodeo personnel on the midway following each night’s performance.

Thursday evening military members and first responders with current ID will be admitted for $10 and honored in the opening ceremonies. In addition, the U.S. Army recruiters will be swearing in a number of new recruits into military service as part of that ceremony.

Saturday is termed “Stompin’ Out Breast Cancer” night, and all fans and contestants are urged to wear pink to help bring attention to this disease which affects so many. Fans will have the opportunity to donate funds which will be sent to Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo for their Breast Cancer Research fund.

Prior to the rodeo performance each night at 8, today through Saturday, where 240 cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation will be competing for $50,000 in prize money in eight events, fans can enjoy the traditional barbecue beef dinners served in the air-conditioned dining room beginning at 5 or explore the Midway which features more than 20 vendors with many kinds of food as well as Western wear and souvenirs.

All proceeds benefit the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department as they serve this area by responding to approximately 300 fire, EMS, and mutual aid calls annually. Additional information is available on the rodeo website www.gerryrodeo.org or by phone at 716-985-4847 or 1-800-985-4847.

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