DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE STAFF
FREDERICKSBURG — When Greg Mohr of the Gillespie County Fair Association says the Fredericksburg Professional Bull Riding event puts fans up close to the action, he means it.
“The folks who get there early enough and get a seat by the rail, well, we like to say they’ll leave with a little something extra in their drink,” he said. With the setup of the Gillespie County Fairgrounds, where the PBR Touring Pro Division stops Sept. 13, fans are sitting right up on some of the best bulls and bull riders in the country when the action starts at 7:30 p.m. Mohr said that at some of the other arenas, such as those in Austin and San Antonio, the fan seating is back a bit from the action.
Not at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds, where the PBR bulls and bull riders compete on the horse-racing track, just steps away from the closest fans.
“You are definitely right there on top of it,” Mohr said.
This marks the fifth year the PBR has stopped at the Gillesipie County Fairgrounds, 530 Fair Drive in Fredericksburg.
The PBR is considered the top bull-riding association around the world with the best bull riders and the baddest bulls. The PBR’s top riders compete in the Built Ford Tough Series, but the Touring Pro Division is a way for riders to work their way into those ranks.
But that doesn’t mean the Tour Pro Division isn’t exciting.
“While it’s sometimes referred to as the minor leagues of the PBR, it still pulls in some great bull riders,” said Heather Croze of the PBR. “You can find 18-year-olds who just bought their (pro) card to guys who have been to the finals before looking to work their way back into the top.”
In order to compete in the Built Ford Tough Series, a bull rider must be ranked in the top 35 of the PBR standings. From week to week, those standings can change, making the Touring Pro Division a place for riders to work their way back into the top 35 and get a shot at the 2014 PBR World Finals on Oct. 22-26 in Las Vegas. At the World Finals, the riders will be competing for the PBR title as well as $250,000.
While the venue and fact it’s a PBR event are big draws by themselves, Mohr said the Fredericksburg event takes a little more urgency from the competitors’ standpoints in its one of the few remaining opportunities for riders to move up the rankings.
“They guys are still competing for points to get in the PBR finals,” he said.
In PBR events, riders compete for points as well as cash. Croze said the winner of the Fredericksburg event could walk away with $5,000.
While many local communities host annual open/pro rodeos, PBR events are on an entirely different level, from the spectacle and the athletes to the bulls. And PBR stock contractors pride themselves on having the best bulls around.
Croze said the Touring Pro Division might see some of the stock contractors’ top bulls, but typically these events feature younger, less-experienced bulls that need time in the ring to develop. In some ways, it’s similar to the bull riders who are trying to work their way into the Built Ford Tough Series.
“But you could see some of the BFTS bulls,” she added.
The competitors, Mohr pointed out, are also pursuing bull riding for a living, so it’s not just a hobby — it’s their day jobs.
“A few might work a job during the week, but for most, this is how they earn a living or want to earn a living,” he said.
Along with the bull riding, Mohr said PBR events pack a lot of entertainment and spectacle into the three-and-a-half hour night, featuring no fewer than 35 bulls and bull riders. The Gillespie County Fairground show also sets itself apart in another way: a special military tribute.
“Our event falls in that Sept. 11 timeframe, and we have this special Sept. 11 presentation that really puts us up there as a PBR event,” Mohr said. “Whenever we go around other PBR events, one of the things people talk about when it comes to the Fredericksburg PBR is the 9/11 presentation.”
Tickets for the event are $20 for adults; $40 for box seats; and $10 for children, active military members and EMS personnel. Tickets are available at the gate or www.gillespiefair.com.
Parking is free. Beer and concessions will be available on the fair grounds.
Call (830) 997-2359 for more information.
And remember, just before you take a sip of your drink, check it to make sure nothing unwanted flew into it.