Take an unusually cool June night and add the promise of an emotional ceremony. Throw in some rowdy bulls and top riders, and dedicate the proceeds to a highly worthwhile cause.
That’s what drew a record-breaking crowd to the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur Saturday.
“We all said Roy took care of the weather, and we handled the rest,” said organizer Andrew Rottner. “Even from heaven, Roy was doing his part.”
Roy Young, a founder of WC Challenger Charities along with Rottner, Wendell Berry Jr. and Calvin Jackson, died in September, just as they were beginning to plan the 10th anniversary of the event.
Saturday night was dedicated to his memory.
Framed photos from the first PBR Challenge were presented to his family members, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the arena.
“It meant a lot to the local folks that knew him,” Rottner said.
About 3,500 people cheered Jordan Hupp to victory. The Wyoming cowboy won $5,104, and Wise County’s own, Mike Lee, took second place, winning $4,779. Jory Markiss of Longmont, Colo., won third and $4,169.
Hart said the bulls were “by far the best we’ve ever had.” Only five bulls were ridden in the long round and one in the championship round.
“I thought we really posed a problem for the guys this year,” he said. “They definitely had their work cut out for them.”
Perhaps the toughest bull on the scene was Bushwhacker, and PBR rider Pistol Robinson climbed on him after the event as part of a bet he had with Hart. Bushwhacker showed the rider no mercy, as Hart kept his $40,000 but pocketed Robinson’s $1,000.
It didn’t stay there long. Hart donated the grand to the Moore, Okla., tornado relief fund.
A highlight of the event was the presentation of homes to five wounded war veterans through the Military Warriors Support Foundation.
“The event was phenomenal,” Rottner said. “Without exception, the fans and sponsors were overwhelmed with emotion and joy. It was the best we’ve had so far.”
Rottner attributed the increased attendance to moving the event from Memorial Day weekend and to the other activities.
“The crowd is so supportive of whatever we have going on,” said Rottner.
Saturday night the entire arena joined in singing the national anthem when there was a glitch with the sound system, impeding the performance of LeAnn Hart.
“It’s outstanding to see those type of people at our event, and they’re there year after year,” Rottner said.
Before the bull riding, 10-year sponsors were recognized and presented buckles like the one awarded to the champion.
Rottner said they don’t have a final number yet on money raised for local charities, but he’s excited to see the total since parking and concession sales were reportedly up.
He admits that it’ll be hard to top this year’s event, but they are already making plans.
“The best pen of bulls you’ll ever have, money raised for local charities, you give five houses away to soldiers and things like that,” said Hart. “Shoot, it couldn’t have been any better. I think Roy Young would sure be proud.”