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I always struggle to make the call on what earns top billing of winter rodeo news after my usual writing hiatus for the cold months. Do we highlight winter rodeos? Winter news? Some outrageous draw or money earned? Should we focus on the fact that more than a year into this COVID junk we’re still seeing rodeos announcing cancellations? Don’t even get me started on that.

I’ll chose to focus on a couple of good highlights regarding local ropers. The National Circuit Finals Rodeo wrapped up last weekend, paying out nearly $630,000 during a few days all the way in Kissimmee, Fla. Ellensburg’s Brady and Riley Minor picked up go-round money in the first and second rounds and earned second-place money in the average for $8,082 in their pocket. With the circuit finals, the big money is in the semifinal and final rounds, but the team roping brothers suffered a no-time in the long round and didn’t advance to the final round. Still 8-grand is a chunk of change and that goes along with the $4,100-plus they won last month at the High Desert Stampede in Redmond, Ore. We haven’t even started the springtime run, but the brothers are in the top 10 in the world standings with a bit of coin in their pocket after missing the NFR last year for the first time since 2012.

Speaking of missing, I’m missing some of the biggest rodeos of the year. RodeoHouston was canceled for the second straight year, Rodeo Austin also skipped 2021. Paydays at those right there not only keep a guy on the road, but those checks pay off bills. Big bills. Those paydays buy a new horse, a new rig, a new trailer. Let the guys and gals rope. Let the riders nod their head to get eight seconds closer to a payday. Let a 19th-ranked barrel racer cut into the gap to get into the top 15. Just. Let. Them. Compete.

Every year there are changes in rodeo. This year’s big change — aside from the stupid COVID cancellations — hits home. The Xtreme Bulls World Finals won’t be in Ellensburg this year. Hold on. Hold on. We still get to host an event and it’ll still be during Labor Day weekend, but the finale has been moved to Pendleton. Before people say, “The finale has always been in Ellensburg!” let me remind you that’s only about 71% true. Of the 17 years of Xtreme Bulls, Ellensburg has hosted an event every year. However, we’ve hosted the finals 12 of those years. There were a few years in Indianapolis. Another year in Kissimmee. Don’t forget Reno in 2005.

The Xtreme Bulls was born in Ellensburg. I still remember 2002 when BJ Schumacher was the only rider to cover his bull in the finals in what was then a prototype. I can still see him hitting the dirt at 8.00001 seconds, but the fact remains that he made it. That propelled him to his first NFR qualification and it was right then when everyone knew we had something special. I don’t care who you are, the Xtreme Bulls is synonymous with Ellensburg. I’m not sure there are many who would disagree.

I’m excited for two other events — The Ellensburg 5 Header (May 1 and 2) and the Daily Record Bares & Broncs (May 14 and 15). Both are long-standing traditions in Ellensburg. Both have announced more added money. That just means more cash for cowboys. We’ll dive into more of the details as we get closer to those May dates on the calendar.

I’ve been silent, but it’s good to be back. Talk to you soon.

Jon Guddat covers rodeo — from the kids to the kids at heart — with a weekly rodeo column in the Daily Record. Contact Jon with story ideas at jonguddat@yahoo.com.

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