Big Sky PBR tickets on sale June 10

By Tyler Allen Explorebigsky.com Staff Writer

BIG SKY – One of Big Sky’s most anticipated summer events will be even bigger this year. The two-day Big Sky Pro Bull Riders competition will feature 40 elite riders and 80-90 world-class bulls, July 31 and Aug. 1.

Now in its third year, the event has grown into one of the premier stops on the Touring Pro Division series. This is the first time it will feature two nights of competition.

“The events in 2010 and 2011 were welcomed with open arms in the Big Sky community,” said Eric Ladd, CEO of Outlaw Partners, which sponsors the PBR (also publisher of this newspaper). “Both events were sold out, and we’re excited to expand to two nights this year, making it one of the largest Touring Pro Division events in the country.”

The riders love it too.

“The Big Sky PBR is a special event,” said retired rider Wiley Petersen. “You get to see the best bulls and bull riders in the most beautiful place in the world.”

But this year, it won’t be just the scenery that attracts the best riders. The expansion coincides with a shift in the PBR Built Ford Tough Series this season, where the top riders on the circuit now have to earn more points in the Touring Pro Division to improve their world standings.

“The top 45 riders used to hole up in the summer,” said Jacey Watson, co-owner of Freestone Productions which produces the Big Sky event. “Now they have to ride this summer to stay in the Built Ford Tough Series.”

Because 50 percent of the points riders score at the Big Sky PBR go toward their BFTS total, while most touring series events only contribute 15-20 percent, it’s a particularly enticing destination, Watson explained.

The prize money doesn’t hurt either. Riders will vie for a $40,000 added purse, with the champion taking home $20-25,000, which is on par with BFTS events, Watson said. The top four places in each of the three rounds will pay out.

“With our new points system, … this is definitely one that our riders want to hit,” said Jay Daugherty, Vice President of the PBR Touring Pro Division who attended the Big Sky event in 2011. “It has great production, great bulls and [it’s] in one of the most beautiful spots in the country.”

Round one will be held July 31, and round two and the championship ride on Aug 1. The aggregate score from the first two rounds will determine the 10 riders competing in the championship, on 10 of the toughest bulls.

On July 31, the top rider after the first round will be invited back for a bonus “Bounty Bull,” with funds raised by a 50/50 raffle. If he manages to hang on for eight seconds, he’ll split the pot with the winning ticket holder. If he gets bucked, half the money will be donated to charity and the other half will roll over to next year’s bounty.

Big name bull riders like J.B. Mauney, Chase Outlaw, Beau Hill, Luke Snyder, Douglas Duncan, Cord McCoy and Pistol Robinson have competed in past Big Sky events, and Watson says these and other top BFTS bull riders may be on this year’s roster, as well.

Each night of competition will be followed by a free concert in the Town Center, with all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Belles on July 31, and southwest Montana outlaw country juggernaut the Dirty Shame to close it out Aug 1. A temporary stage will be built specifically for the event.v

The Big Sky Town Center will host the event for the third straight year, and this year’s expansion “speaks volumes about the athletes, the community, the Western culture, the sponsors, and the organization behind promoting the event,” said Town Center project manager Ryan Hamilton.

“When the show comes to town we put in the arena, four chutes, 40 back pens, tents and port o potties,” Watson said. “Being able to be outside in the mountain air in Big Sky makes it unique, and to see that sunset behind Lone Mountain is pretty amazing. It’s like sitting down in a small theater with [thousands] of your closest buddies.”

Approximately 70 percent of the PBR crew travels across the country on the BFTS circuit, from New York City to Anaheim, Calif.

“They always say this is the best crowd,” Watson said. “The fans that come are off the hook.”