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Mutton bustin’: PBR’s mini main event

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By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BIG SKY – The 2014 Big Sky PBR will feature some of the world’s top bull riders. This dangerous sport is for professionals only – there’s no amateur division for dad to try his luck on top of these one-ton beasts. But parents can live vicariously through their youngsters, as the mutton bustin’ event draws kids from all walks of life, trying their best to ride a bounding sheep.

A perennial crowd favorite, mutton bustin’ challenges kids 3-6 years old – and less than 60 pounds – to hold on as long as they can to a sheep weighing 140-180 pounds. Most busters manage to last 3-4 seconds after the ewe comes blasting out of the chute gate, though some refuse to let go even after they hit the ground and get dragged through the dust.

These intrepid wool riders will reenact the main event in miniature, though the stage won’t be any smaller. While the mutton bustin’ happens during intermission, nearly 2,500 cheering fans will watch these tiny cowboys and girls test their mettle in the rodeo arena.

The sheep all hail from Gretchen Fellerhoff-White’s ranch in Gallatin Gateway. Fellerhoff-White has raised sheep for their wool for 28 years and is a stock contractor for Freestone Productions, which produces the Big Sky PBR.

The rider corps is made up of locals and vacationers alike. Competitors will be supplied with vests and helmets for protection and are encouraged to wear boots, long sleeves and jeans. The 2014 Big Sky PBR event features two nights of mutton bustin’ for the second year in a row.

“We want to be part of this great community event,” said Martha Johnson, owner of Montana Living, Big Sky Real Estate. The real estate firm is sponsoring the mutton bustin’ for the first time this year, but is in its third year as a sponsor of the Big Sky PBR.

Big Sky PBR Images by Tyler Busby_90“One of the great highlights [of the PBR] is watching the local kids have so much fun,” she said.

Johnson has lived in Big Sky for 26 years and said she’s a huge fan of keeping the cowboy spirit alive and well in the community.

“I think it’s an important ingredient to what keeps Big Sky unique and desirable.”

Mutton busters can sign up at the Outlaw Partners office or by contacting Maria Wyllie at (406) 995-2055 or Slots are limited and are available on a first come, first serve basis.

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