By Tyler Allen EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – This summer the Big Sky Pro Bull Riders event will be gunning for a four-peat as PBR Event of the Year, and its chances are strong given the growth of this signature summer affair.
Each year, the top bull riders in the world vote on their favorite PBR-sanctioned event, one that’s not yet part of the Built Ford Tough Series. The past three Octobers, organizers of the Big Sky PBR have claimed their prize on the BFTS World Finals arena dirt in Las Vegas.
This summer marks the second year the Big Sky event will be part of the BlueDef Velocity Tour but it’s moving to a premier weekend slot on the PBR calendar. Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 the country’s meanest bulls will be matching strength and toughness with elite riders from around the world.
“This event has experienced exponential growth from the ground-up in just five years, evolving from a one-night weekday event on an entry-level circuit into a multi-day weekend event in one of the most prestigious divisions,” said Ersin Ozer, media and events director for event co-sponsor Outlaw Partners.
Also the publisher of EBS, Outlaw Partners produces the Big Sky PBR with Freestone Productions and Continental Construction in the Town Center outdoor arena, drawing thousands of bull-riding fans to Big Sky to watch the action with Lone Mountain looming in the distance.
“The thing about Big Sky is it’s one of our few outdoor BlueDef events on the PBR calendar. You can’t even explain the beauty in words … having a bull-riding event in that gorgeous part of the United States,” said Justin Felisko, PBR’s senior writer and editor.
Felisko has worked for PBR since May 2013 and has attended more than 60 PBR events in that time. He first came to Big Sky last summer and says he hopes to make a repeat appearance this year.
“In terms of marquee events, Big Sky is one of the major ones,” Felisko said, referring to non-BFTS stops. “It’s one of the more intimate outdoor venues because the crowd is so close to the action. It’s like the Built Ford Tough Series [events] where the fans are on top of the pit – [Big Sky] fans are on top of the action.”
Felisko credits the setting and the outdoor opportunities – including horseback riding, whitewater rafting and fishing – that attract such a great crop of riders annually who have thrown their support behind the Big Sky PBR the last three years. He says it’s a win-win for the riders because they “escape from the daily grind” of the Built Ford Tough Series, while staying in great riding shape matching up against Chad Berger’s world-renowned bulls.
This year, the festivities will kick off Thursday night with Music in the Mountains as the Big Sky PBR partners with the Arts Council of Big Sky to throw a pre-party concert with cowboys and event sponsors. The free musical act is still to be determined.
After the bull riding on Friday night, southern rock legends the Outlaws will play the free after-party concert, and Jason Boland and the Stragglers will close the bull riding festivities in Town Center Saturday night.
“It’s no secret this [tour stop] was awarded PBR’s Event of the Year for the third year in a row,” Ozer said. “This is no small feat, and largely due to our community’s involvement that this event has held it’s title over hundreds of other events nationwide.”
Big Sky Resort returns as the official lodging sponsor and Ozer encourages bull-riding fans to book their accommodations early as it’s one of the summer’s busiest weekends.
The Big Sky PBR attracts hundreds of sponsors every year, but new in 2016 will be the opportunity to sponsor a cowboy’s event registration and travel fees. This will give individuals or businesses a vested interest when their sponsored rider comes tearing out of the chute gates.
“The goal is to sell enough of these to subsidize the event registration fees as well as some travel money for every Big Sky athlete,” Ozer said.
It will be tough for another PBR event to dethrone Big Sky this year.
Tickets go on sale June 1 at bigskypbr.com.