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Big Sky’s first annual PBR

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Beau Hill wins in final round at Professional Bull Riding event.

By Taylor Anderson

If it wasn’t called the first annual Big Sky PBR event before, it is now.

That’s because the sellout event that included installation of a 2,000-person rodeo stadium in the Big Sky Town Center, a $20,000 fundraising Calcutta event, and a dramatic last ride win for Montana rider Beau Hill has solidified talk of a second annual Big Sky PBR.

It started as a fledgling idea by Jim Murphy and Eric Ladd (the publisher of this newspaper), picked up momentum in the form of sponsors and local support, and event came to fruition Aug. 3.

The night the bull riders came to town is a night to remember in Big Sky’s short history.


Eric Ladd met Jim Murphy while working with the Yellowstone Club years ago, and the two started talking about bringing the riders to town.

“The first event I attended was about eight years ago in Las Vegas, and that’s what got the wheels turning [in my mind],” Ladd said. Ladd, who has lived in Big Sky for 12 years, hooked up with PBR promoters Andy and Jacey Watson after the Las Vegas event. The idea began to solidify, though it was a long time coming. There were no potential venues to fit the bid, and creating a temporary one would be expensive.

“The opportunity finally presented itself last year,” Ladd said. “Murphy was a catalyst, after
he took Sam Byrne from the Yellowstone Club fishing and laid out the idea.”

Byrne, a Boston-area real estate investor, bought the Yellowstone Club in 2009, and became an integral part in finding financing for the Big Sky PBR.

After finding supporters, Ladd and Murphy connected with the Watsons again, and they officially approved another stop to the PBR Montana tour for August 2011. The group chose to host the event at the Big Sky Town Center.

Workers mounted tractors in early 2011 summer, scratching through the rough dirt with archaic-looking plows. The stage was set and within a matter of weeks, bleachers, chutes and fences were put in place.


The event kicked off with a promotional video from The Outlaw Partners, the media sponsor, about life in the West and featuring Montana rider Beau Hill clad in cowboy hat and riding gear.

The small stadium kept fans close together and built excitement as Chad Berger’s bulls ran headstrong at the arena fencing. Fans crept from their seats in search of a closer view of the massive animals. The crowd erupted when the lone wrangler roped a bull charging a fence and pulled him back.

In the first round, riders mounted bulls in the chutes, tied tightly their leather-covered hands, and gave nod to the chute operators to pull open the gate. With a bang of metal and a kick of mud and dung, the bulls were off, rider clinging to a flank rope from on top.

Some riders were lucky and fell off ‘gently’ as the bull leapt to his front legs, while others were slung at the top of the bull’s hind kick, and thrown high into the air or into the fence. Beau Hill hung onto a bull for eight seconds that round, scoring an 86 and becoming the
first rider to advance to the final round.

After the short go (final round), Josh Faircloth was in the lead, with only Hill remaining. Hill hung on when his bull hopped sidelong into the fence, but his score was negatively impacted, and he would’ve finished second had he not been offered a re-ride.

Some fans shouted for him to take it, and others muttered he would surely ride. Hill chose to risk second place for a chance at victory, and tension in the stadium built as he readied his bull.

With the clack of the gate, the bull, Hill on top, spun onto the packed dirt and circled, kicking. 2,000 event-goers stood and cheered. A counter on the 10-foot video screen ticked up from zero to eight.

Hill hopped off his bull,landing on his feet. Arms raised, he turned to see his score: 88. He jumped,hugged and high fived Flint the Entertainer.

In that ride, Beau Hill won the Big Sky PBR.

Hill made $6,392 but was not the main money winner. That’s because there was a
final, $5,000 grand prize ride offered to the rider with the highest collective score from the Livingston Classic and Big Sky events, which happened to be Faircloth, the winner of the Livingston event.

There was a short break for Hill’s celebration before the announcers called Faircloth to the chutes. Fans remained standing while Faircloth rode his bull for eight seconds, winning the cash prize and pushing his event earnings to $8,995.

“The involvement at that level showed that a permanent arena would be a great addition and a permanent stop every year for the PBR.”

“From a production standpoint, it was one of the best shows, if not the best, that we’ve pulled off as a company,” Jacey Watson said.

“I think Big Sky was probably the most beautiful setting we have ever been in for an event,” said PBR entertainer Flint Rasmussen Tuesday in an email. Rasmussen, a Montana native, said that he appreciated the scenery at Big Sky’s event. “The Lee Metcalf and Lone Mountain backdrops were nice to show southern-born riders why I stay in Montana,” he said.

As for a second annual, “We’re 100 percent behind it,” said Hamilton of the Town Center.


That the PBR came at the heels of a push to make Big Sky the spot of the new Montana
Cowboy Hall of Fame seems to have added significance to its success.

Approximately 17 Montana towns have expressed interest in submitting a bid, said Ryan
Hamilton, who is heading up a group from Big Sky. This group is the only party from Gallatin
County to have expressed interest.

Madison County has also placed a bid for all of its towns.

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