Anticipation has been building for weeks as some of the best bull riders in the world prepare to descend on Decatur this weekend for the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge.
Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the event that has raised almost $400,000 for local charities, and through tireless fundraising and hard work, WC Challenger Charities will bring bull riding fans a collossal celebration. WCCC founders Andrew Rottner, Calvin Jackson and Wendell Berry Jr. hope the event will not only mark a decade of local PBR action, but also honor friend and fellow founder, Roy Young, who died last September. Rottner said WCCC goes into the event with mixed feelings.
“Usually it’s all about providing the best possible experience for the fans and the riders and ensuring that they got their money’s worth and had a fun evening with family, but this year I thnik it goes beyond that,” he said. “I hope what comes across is how much pride we take in the event and the good that it brings to so many people. There as so many special things that are happening this year. It’s unparalleled.”
Rottner said the piece most important to him in Saturday’s event is honoring Young.
“Without him we never would have gotten to the level that we have with this event,” he said. “We’re hoping he’s watching and seeing what we’ve done for him. It was our desire and passion to make it the best event for him, to honor his memory.”
As part of that effort, WCCC will surprise five veterans with new homes Saturday night. The group, and fellow organizer Alan Sessions, established an alliance with Military Warriors Support Foundation to give away mortgage-free, remodeled homes to veterans wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Although the group planned in the fall to give away one home, their fundraising skyrocketed, allowing them to give away five homes, the equivalent of $1.25 million in houses.
Berry, who came up with the 1,000 Miles Til Home campaign to promote their efforts, will run the last 10th of a mile in the arena Saturday night with a group of veterans before the presentation.
The bull riding action will feature several local riders and the best bulls in the nation. An added bonus for PBR fans this year is Flint Rasmussen.
For the first time ever, the exclusive PBR arena entertainer will trek to Texas for the event. Organizers have tried for several years to bring the legendary barrel man to Wise County, but in previous years, the date conflicted with his schedule for the Built Ford Tough Series.
Rasmussen said the “stars lined up” for him to be here on the 10th anniversary, and he anticipates a good show.
“I like to sweat … and working in the heat,” said Rasmussen, who normally performs indoors in the BFTS. “It makes for good material.
“Our events are real structured with timing controlled by TV and a lot of corporate obligations, but with events like this, we can kind of let loose a little bit. The show is more laid back, and you can see our personalities a little more.”
For folks unfamiliar with Rasmussen’s antics, he’s not a traditional rodeo clown. He’s like a standup comic in face paint.
“There’s lots of music,” he said. “That’s my trademark with physical and adlib comedy and lots of dancing. There’s not much downtime. It’s high energy, and the crowd will get involved. You’re not allowed to cross your arms!”
Rottner said hopefully they’ll show everyone a good time and break attendance records. He said the passion of Roy Young is what brought the event this far.
“The byproduct is all of these other great things that are happening,” he said. “Having Flint here is great entertainment for everyone and then being able to culminate that with the donation of five homes to heroes is a significant contribution to these people. Hopefully it will inspire the fans to do something productive to help others, too.”
HART PUTS UP CASH TO BRING BEST TO EVENT
J.W. Hart was burned up.
He was bringing the best bulls to town but was having trouble getting the best riders for his annual event in Decatur put on by WC Challenger Charities.
“I along with Calvin (Jackson) and those guys, we pride ourselves on having the best bulls of any PBR touring pro event and having the best guys, too,” Hart said. “It’s a different era I guess, but they didn’t want to come get on that caliber of bull for $15,000.
“It just went all over me.”
So he called them out. Hart took to Twitter and called the whole bunch spineless.
“I’m old school and this is why bull riding was invented. It’s about a guy getting on the best bull in the world to show ‘I’m better than you at this.’
Although the roster is filled with top riders, the only one to respond directly to Hart was Pistol Robinson.
After some good, old-fashioned smack talk via social media the two settled on a bet with Bushwacker, the No. 1 bull in the world.
“I told him, ‘if you want a shot at the champ, I’ll give you $40 to 1 odds, but you have to bet at least $1,000,’” said Hart. “The sky was the limit. I would have covered any bet he made. My side is $40,000, and that’s where it’s gonna stand.”
At the conclusion of the PBR event Saturday, Robinson will make good on the bet.
“We’ll crown the champion of this, then we’ll roll Buschwacker in and give Pistol his shot at fame,” Hart said.
Hart said he has no insurance on the bet, and the PBR is not backing it either.
“This is between me, Pistol and Bushwacker,” J.W. said with a laugh Tuesday. “I know my money is in my pocket, and it’s just an old-fashioned bet. It’s kind of cool because that’s sort of how bull riding originated.”
Hart did say at the end of the night the focus should still remain on honoring WCCC founder Roy Young, who died in September, and the veterans who will be receiving homes.
“Pistol, the bull, me … we all need to take a back seat to the soldiers,” he said. “We’re so blessed to be a part of this and help people who have helped us so much to live free … these are the guys that keep us safe and free.
“We’re so proud to give back to them.”
J.W. HART PBR CHALLENGE
Sheriff’s Posse Grounds, Decatur
7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8
Tickets can be purchased at Wise Wireless in Decatur or at wcchallenger.org.