This year's Crooked River Roundup is expected to be bigger and better than ever.
The Roundup grounds have been reconfigured with new gates for the timed events and a new 18-foot high entry for barrel racing that will let contestants enter the arena at a full gallop.
"I think we have been able to do a job on this new timed event end," said Crooked River Roundup Board Member Jason Snider. "It seems to have got a lot of folks excited about that, and it's certainly helped our numbers. We've always had a decent turnout on our timed event side, but we've just added a little buzz to it."
Numbers were down at last year's Roundup as the newly formed ERA (Elite Rodeo Association) took some of the top performers away from the Professional Cowboy Rodeo Association. However, the ERA is not competing this year, and the top cowboys have rejoined the PRCA.
That and the newly reconfigured arena have led to a big jump in entries for this year's Roundup.
After having 293 entrants a year ago, this year's Roundup has 386 entrants.
Not only are entries in the timed events up, but the rough stock events, which have seen a steady decrease in entries for several years, has seen a big increase in entries.
After not having a single bareback rider in one of last year's go rounds, this year, there are 16 bareback riders entered, 26 bull riders, and 34 saddle bronc riders.
Perhaps more importantly, those riders include some of the top cowboys in the current PRCA world standings.
R.C. Landginham, who is currently ranked second, leads a strong contingent of bareback riders. Also competing are Wyatt Bloom (12th in the standings), Austin Foss (16th) and Steven Peebles, a past NFR champion, is also attending, as is local favorite Brian Bain, of Powell Butte.
Saddle bronc riding will also see some big names. Ryder Wright (11th), Cody Wright (14th), Tyler Corrington (17th), Rusty Wright (23rd), Nick LaDuke (26th) and Spencer Wright (34th) are all expected to attend.
Bull riding is also loaded with top talent.
Roscoe Jarboe, who is currently second in the standings, highlights a group of riders, which includes Ty Wallace (fourth), Jordan Spears (sixth), Tanner Learmont (ninth), Dalan Duncan (16th) and Brady Portenier (18th).
The timed events also feature some top talent.
There are 79 barrel racers entered in the Roundup, including Kathy Grimes, who is currently second in the standings.
Team roping has nearly as many entries with 65 teams, including 10 of the top 20 teams in the standings.
Top headers such as Luke Brown and Coleman Proctor, who are ranked one and two in the current standings, headline a strong group of ropers.
Other top headers include Garrett Rogers, Clay Smith, Hayes Smith, Jesse Stipes, Ryan Reed, Clay Tryan, Riley Minor and Blake Teixeira.
Headline team roping heelers include Billie Jack Saebens (first), Jake Long (second), as well as Jake Minor, Paul Eaves, Buddy Hawkins II, Jeremy Buhler, Cody Pearson, Travis Graves, Jade Corkill, Brady Minor and Joseph Harrison.
Local team roping favorites include Charly Crawford, Brandon Beers, McKennon Buckner, and Dayton, Cully and Austin Stafford.
Steer wrestling also has some big names scheduled to compete, with Baylor Roche (fifth) and Josh Peek (sixth) headlining the list. Peek, is also second in the all-around standings.
With 50 competitors scheduled to compete, tie down roping should also be fierce.
Tuf Cooper and Trevor Brazile, who both joined the ERA a year ago, are back and expected to compete. Other big names include Matt Shiozawa, Tim Pharr, Cory Solomon, Peek, Timber More, Jake Pratt and Ryle Smith.
There is also a strong contingent of steer ropers entered, with Chet Herren, J. Tom Fisher, Cooper, Rocky Patterson, Brazile, Garrett Hale and Brian Garr all scheduled to compete.
However, Snider said to keep in mind that since the Crooked River Roundup is held the same weekend as a large rodeo in Reno, Nevada, some cowboys could default if they make it to Saturday's short go round in Reno.
In order to help attract big name talent, Snider added that the Roundup has added an additional $1,000 purse to each discipline, making the purse $5,000 or more per event.
"$5,000 is the bench mark for a lot of these guys," he said. "A lot of these guys start with rodeos that are $,5000 or north of that for their schedule, and we've now become that, so it gives a little more focus to these guys as they hit the ground."
Snider added that the new work on the arena should lead to fast times in all of the timed events, leading to possible arena records.
In addition to the national talent, the Roundup board is also working hard to attract local talent. Ranch bronc riding, which started a year ago, returns this year, ensuring that there will be local cowboys entered in the competition.
Adding to the local flair, this year's Roundup has added wild cow milking.
In addition, Snider added that the rodeo is planning on using Central Oregon high school rodeo performers for a number of tasks throughout the weekend.
"We are trying to bring in a little bit of local influence with our ranch bronc riding and wild cow milking," he said. "We think that it's important to keep some local pieces, so we are going to have local high school rodeo kids that are going to be packing sponsor flags for our grand entry, and they are going to help push cattle. We are trying to build a little bit of a culture so that those kids feel at home. A lot of their moms and dads are entered in the rodeo, and a lot of these kids are capable, so we are going to put them in a position where they feel like they are welcome."
Snider added that with Pape as a major sponsor this year, not only has the arena been updated, but the Roundup will also have some new and larger earth moving equipment, making the arena grounds safer and faster than in the past.
"We brought in some implements, and with Pape's sponsorship, some tractors that can handle some of this bigger equipment to make this ground a lot better," he concluded.
The Roundup officially kicks off Friday morning with slack at 11 a.m. There will be slack performances continuing Saturday and Sunday, also at 11 a.m.
The first rodeo performance will be Friday night at 7 p.m. with Saturday's Roundup scheduled for 7 p.m. and Sunday's matinee performance set for 2 p.m.
Tickets are available at the gate, or can be purchased locally at Fair Feed and Supply, Prineville Men's Wear, Wilco Farm Stores, and online at crookedriverroundup.com.