The big winners in the 121st Annual World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo, held Aug. 19-22 at the Payson Event Center, were the local economy and the high school graduates who receive annual rodeo committee scholarships.
"This year we targeted the Valley with ads much more than we have in the past," said Tina Bruess, executive director of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The attendance reflected our efforts."
Gate sales exceeded 5,400 tickets this year. The Saturday night performance had the highest attendance with about 2,500 spectators.
"This rodeo was more successful than previous years," said Rex Hinshaw, rodeo board chairman. "Saturday night was standing-room only. This was the best year in the five years I have been involved."
Bruess said the money rodeo fans spend in Payson is great for the local economy.
"Visitors eat in our restaurants, they shop in our stores and they stay in our hotels," she said.
Meanwhile, a portion of the proceeds generated from the rodeo benefit Payson High School scholarship winners.
Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association competitors tapped out the prize kitty, totalling a $44,290 purse for all winning entrants.
The largest single pay out, $1,672.44, went to Larry Leist for winning the bull-riding competition. Aboard 6 Red Hot, Leist chalked up a rodeo high score of 79.
Las Cruces, N.M., cowboy Jake Aragon roped and wrestled his way to the all-around cowboy award and $1,906.33.
Aragon was second in the steer-wrestling average, fourth in the second go-around of steer wrestling, fourth in the first go of tie-down roping and second in the tie-down roping averages.
In the saddle bronc riding, Sean Prater and Scott Miller tied for top honors with identical scores of 77. Prater rode Special K and Miller was aboard King's Outlaw. Prater and Miller received $1,316.89.
A fan favorite in the event, Arizona cowboy Steve Dollarhide, was sixth with a 72.
Casey Wilson earned $1,057.66 for finishing first in the tie-down roping with an average of 20.1 seconds.
Steer-wrestling champion Brian Cline turned in an average of 17.4 seconds and received $848.66 in prize money.
Team-roping champs Mark Simon and Clint James each pocketed $880.33 for winning with an average of 12.0 seconds.
Simon, a longtime National Rodeo Finals qualifier, is no stranger to the Rim Country. He's the brother of former Julia Randall Elementary School teacher and local rodeo historian Penny Conway.
Sammy Jo White won the women's barrel racing top prize of $462.94 with her time of 35.55 seconds.
Armstrong said this year's rodeo went off smoothly, mostly due to the cooperation between the chamber of commerce and the rodeo committee. Anyone wishing to volunteer their time with the rodeo should contact the chamber at (928) 474-4515.
"We can always use the help," Bruess said.
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