Under a prairie sky, dozens of masterful athletes rode bulls, horses and taut calves.
On Friday night, Pretty Prairie Rodeo #85 sold out the stands to over 4,500 spectators.
As the runners raced on barrels, rode bulls with ropes and rode bulls, announcer Randy Corelli cheered people in the stands cheering the participants, some of whom grew up near Pretty Prairie.
Throughout the evening, bullfighters Jacob Welker of Pretty Prairie and Wacey Munsell of Ulysses and their hometown favorite, Justin Rumford, who grew up in Arlington, shielded the bull riders and performed in front of the crowd.
Three locals joined cowboys from Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming as they competed for money and recognition. Hutchinson’s Tammy Bolton rode her Bean horse for the barrel racing competition, and he rode it at a good pace.
Cash Toews of Canton and Luke Mast of Hutchinson worked hard to survive on their bulls, as the Toews competed in their third rodeo.
Canton Cash Toews
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Cash Toews, a Canton bull rider, competed in his third Pretty Prairie Rodeo competition of the year and his goal was to participate in the Rodeo Cowboys Association, or PRCA, Finals, the Rookie Finals in Las Vegas.
“My grandfather didn’t come from a rodeo family but from a cattle-raising family, but he started rodeos, and back in the day they used to ride buffaloes,” said Toys. “My dad didn’t really want me to start it, but I kept begging, and it was in my blood from day one.”
Toews said he started out with lamb breaking competitions when he was young and continued to pull calves, eventually switching to bull riding.
He started his career at Pretty Prairie Rodeo and looks forward to returning every year.
It’s always fun to come back to,’ said Toys. “It’s just a great rodeo; I’d love to come back here.”
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Hutchinson’s Tammy Bolton said she actually won by being in the rodeo
For Tammy Bolton, a Hutchinson barrel racer, the crowds made her feel right at home.
“I’ve been to some other rodeos, but this one, even though I live in Hutch, is a bit like our hometown rodeo,” Bolton said.
Bolton said her horse, Anastasia Bean, seemed to enjoy the loud cheers and encouragement from the audience.
At the end of each rodeo, Bolton said her performance in competition was less important than how much fun she had in the ring.
“That’s about my ride, and for me, I really won,” Bolton said.
Bolton started barrel racing about six years ago after her late husband, Gary Bolton, who died of cancer several years earlier, purchased 80 acres of land outside Hutchinson and encouraged her to buy a horse.
Then she found her first mare, Hope.
“I didn’t even think about it; I haven’t been riding in 30 years,” Bolton said. “I didn’t go looking for a barrel horse; I just wanted a good smashed horse. Then my goal was to win a double, and I won one only after my husband died and then she won me a six.”
Bolton said Hope started making appearances during competitions three times out of four, and from there, Bolton scored a goal to reach the PRCA Barrel Racing finals.
In the end, Hope became riddled with arthritis and joint issues, so Bolton decided to compete with Anastasia Bean and scored just over 18 seconds this year.
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Luke Mast, of Reno County, scored 82 points on his Friday night ride.
Five years ago, Mast began competing in a Kansas rodeo after he and his family moved to rural Hutchinson from Middlebury, Indiana.
It was Mast’s second time on the Pretty Prairie Rodeo this year, but he said he enjoys the rodeo because most of his friends and family watch him compete.
“I love bulls, everyone here knows me and the rodeo, and they usually don’t follow me on the trail,” Mast said.