By Tyler Allen EBS Managing Editor
BIG SKY – The hottest ticket in town caught fire this year.
The Big Sky PBR sold out both nights of bull riding within 24 hours of going on sale June 1. Now in its seventh year, the PBR arena in Big Sky Town Center will host some of the world’s top bull riding talent July 28 and 29—with musical acts on the SAV Stage to follow each night—as well as the second annual Big Sky Art Auction on July 27, followed by the Turnpike Troubadours on Town Center stage.
New this summer, the four-day event will kick off July 26 at the Reserve at Moonlight Basin with the Big Sky PBR Golf Tournament, benefiting the Rider Relief Fund, and the inaugural community barn dance that evening.
“The growth has been exciting to witness and is a testament to the power and importance of events in a mountain town like Big Sky,” said Eric Ladd, CEO of Big Sky PBR producer Outlaw Partners. “Big Sky lacked that signature event like a Telluride Bluegrass Festival or Jackson Hole’s Rendezvous Fest. After the first year of PBR we realized this event had the opportunity to become that for Big Sky.”
This year, ticket purchases flooded in from at least 35 states, and PBR fans from Hawaii to Maine and Arizona to Florida jumped on the chance to attend the area’s signature summer gathering.
Candace Carr Strauss just started as Big Sky Chamber of Commerce’s new CEO on June 1, but has seen the local PBR grow over the years—and may hold the title for farthest traveled to attend. She’s been to the Big Sky PBR three times and one year flew to Montana from Athens, Greece, just before the weekend started.
“Obviously, it’s growing exponentially,” Strauss said. “It was a finalist for Montana Tourism Event of the Year [in 2017], which speaks volumes to the event and its economic impact on our community.”
She also cited the significant influence Big Sky PBR has on the community through its annual fundraising for charities and nonprofits, and that selling out in 24 hours speaks to the “consumer side” catching on to the secret the professional bull riders have known for some time.
Last November, Big Sky PBR was voted “Event of the Year” for the fourth consecutive time, an honor that’s available to bull riding events outside of the Built Ford Tough Series, which are produced by the Professional Bull Riders organization.
“Big Sky is one of the PBR’s premier summertime events, and a perennial favorite among fans and bull riders,” said PBR CEO Sean Gleason in an email. “It’s an absolutely stunning setting for outdoor bull riding. Big Sky draws top riders and bulls, and it seems to bring out the best in everyone.”
Brodey Simkins, vice president of Simkins-Hallin and director for Big Sky Town Center, remembers the first year of the event when it was a single weekday evening, and an experiment to bring Ladd’s idea of bull riding to Big Sky.
“Year one it was literally just to test an idea,” Simkins said. “And to be in year seven with all of the accolades from PBR, it’s as good as it gets. … It’s the one time of year Big Sky literally circles the wagons.”
Town Center Manager Ryan Hamilton added that they advise subscribers to their e-newsletter “to act now, they’re going to go fast.” They couldn’t have been more accurate—in previous years, fans were able to purchase tickets as late as July, but that’s likely a thing of the past.
“Our goal is to turn this into a large multi-day festival that would include an addition of a headliner music act, and more of a county fair atmosphere to it,” Ladd said. “The financial impact that this event is proving to have for Big Sky is very notable. Some businesses have told us it’s their most successful sales week of the year.”
Ladd stresses that those who missed out on tickets this year are encouraged to attend the free events throughout the week, including the community barn dance, Turnpike Troubadours playing Music in the Mountains, and the Big Sky Art Auction that precedes the Thursday night concert.
Tickets are also still available for the after-party music each night of bull riding, with James McMurtry playing Friday and Jamie McLean Band closing out the weekend on Saturday. And for those still itching to see the tour’s bull riders in action, the Livingston Classic PBR is the following weekend on Saturday, Aug. 5.
Visit bigskypbr.com for more information, a full schedule of events and to purchase tickets to the Big Sky PBR after-party concerts.