By Taylor Anderson Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant
BIG SKY – Chad Berger probably didn’t have too much fun watching riders romp his bulls last August during Big Sky’s first Professional Bull Riding event.
This year, Berger’s bulls were tougher, tossing riders in three, four, five seconds—well short of the eight seconds needed to post a score. Still, a few athletes rode for eight, and Brant Atwood took Beau Hill’s place at the top of the podium.
Although the Big Sky event was again part of the Touring Pro Division, there was a different vibe this year.
As with the previous year, the pre-event hype filled town for months beforehand. The Calcutta auction and concert the first night were well attended and filled with energy. The vendor village sent smells and displayed artisanship from local businesses hours before the show.
But this wasn’t the crowd’s first rodeo. Many in the sold out bleachers had returned from last year’s award-winning event, back to see the bulls, the riders, and entertainer Flint Rasmussen with his clown around antics and dance moves that make him one of the best in the sport.
Geyser Whitewater brought back its busses this year, with rafts strapped atop for a good aerial view of the arena (and some good material for Flint).
Mutton busting was a hit again, and 6-year-old Tana Brennan got a standing ovation from the 2,500 in attendance after clinging onto her sheep for a wild ride that got her a night-best 85 points.
The event was less about firsts (as last year’s was) and more about the riders. Returning Big Sky PBR winner and fan favorite Beau Hill was tossed out of the mix early after a brief five-second ride, and the crowd was left looking for someone new to root for.
Brant Atwood filled the role after etching his second go ride for the night’s best score of 91.00, putting him far ahead of then-leaders Cody Campbell and Ty Pozzoban, each with 179.00 points on the night.
With the lead in hand, Atwood watched anxiously as riders were tossed off the beasts, some less painfully than others. Dakota Beck strapped onto his bull needing just 88.50 points to catch Atwood’s lead. The stagehands pulled back the chute, slammed it against the gate, and Beck held on for dear life before getting tossed after five seconds.
Atwood got one more ride for $2,000 in cash for one more eight-second ride. He stepped into the chute and onto his bull, Jack Up.
It wasn’t clear whose side the crowd was on for Atwood’s last ride. Whether it was for the one-ton beast or the 170-pound cowboy on top didn’t matter, the cash prize just wasn’t in the cards for Atwood that ride, and he was tossed before reaching the money mark.
After the awards ceremony, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real stepped off their tour bus and onto the stage centered at the base of the vendor village and rocked hundreds of likely new fans for an after party show in the Town Center.
More quickly than it came, the Second Annual Big Sky PBR ended. With the vendor village, the bleachers, the stage and the arena all gone the next day, the sageless area east of the Town Center will perhaps sit for another year, waiting for the announcement of next year’s event.