It’ll be one of the most exciting evening’s entertainments one can envision, but yet a sad occasion all at the same time.
However, benefits from proceeds of the “most dangerous event participated in by man” gives a definite upside to the occasion.
Initiated and planned in memory of a champion cowboy taken in his prime of life, the fun-packed-evening for a worthwhile cause is the 10th annual Brett Cushenbery Memorial Bull Riding, 7 p.m., Saturday, April 27, CiCo Park, Manhattan.
Coordinator A.J. Griffin, well-recognized rodeo cowboy, farrier and stable owner, has “pulled out all the stops” to make this far-and-away-the-best-ever.
“We’ll have the best bulls, the best cowboys, the best bull fighters, the best comedy, and the best announcer to make this the ‘undisputedly-best bull riding’ in the country,” emphasized Griffin.
Most importantly, the event honors the life of Brett Cushenbery, champion bull rider and K-State Rodeo Team member for three years.
Cushenbery was trampled by a bull on October 12, 2003, at the Cowboy’s Professional Rodeo Association Prairie Circuit Finals in Hutchinson, and died two days later of heart complications.
Griffin, K-State alumnus, started the fund-raising event 10 years ago in honor and memory of Cushenbery, who was his rodeo team mate and close friend.
“The benefit has been getting bigger and better every year,” Griffin said. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Kaw Valley Rodeo Association, and the Central Plains Rodeo Association, according to Griffin.
“However, we’re especially proud that a share of the funds raised at the jackpot will also go to a scholarship fund for Nia, granddaughter of Ernie Love, who passed away last summer after being a major part of the benefit organization from the beginning,” explained Griffin, noting that Nia survived a near-drowning accident.
“Ernie was always a major part of the logistics and especially in the fund raising efforts for the Memorial Bull Riding,” Griffin emphatically credited. “His last wish was for a part of the benefit proceeds to go for Nia’s college fund, and that’s definitely what we will always do.
“Since we started, we’ve raised more than $30,000 to benefit the sport of rodeo, bull riding, and worthwhile causes, all in memory of Brett Cushenbery, and now Ernie Love as well,” Griffin clarified.
“None of this would be possible without generous sponsorships and partnerships from supporters and businesses throughout the Midwest,” Griffin admitted.
R.C. McGraw’s, local Western night club, managed by Nick Powers, was credited for strong corporate support from the beginning. “We really appreciate their involvement,” Griffin acknowledged.
“We’ve been happy to help with this great program. It’s been a boost to our business too, with large and overflowing crowds throughout the bull riding weekend. Of course, we appreciate that as well,” Powers said.
A mechanical bull is scheduled to be at R.C. McGraw’s on Friday evening before Saturday’s benefit jackpot, giving “wanna-be bull riders” a sample of what it might be like to ride “the real thing.”
“The mechanical bull is also going to be in operation before and after the bull riding jackpot, with all proceeds from both Friday and Saturday evenings going to the benefit causes,” Griffin said.
Several sponsorships have been contracted, but there are additional partnerships available to all interested parties, Griffin related.
Bucking bulls will be again be furnished by Jimmy Crowther of Roxbury and Matt Williams of Arkansas City. Griffin said.
Both stock contractors have had bulls at the Las Vegas “Finals” for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Championship Bull Riding and Professional Bull Riders as well as other circuit and major bull riding jackpots
“The draw will include bulls that have qualified for all of those major events. Every one of the bulls will turn back right out the gate,” Griffin assured.
Only as good as the stock is the contestants, and Griffin furthered his pledge in that field. “We don’t know exactly who will be entered until the day before, but we’ll have several cowboys competing who have ridden in the National Finals Rodeo, as well as CBR and the PBR Finals,” he said.
Forty cowboys are getting down in the chutes on bulls in the first-go-round, with the top ten contestants coming back in the short-go-round, from which the champion and top money winners will be named.
One cowboy who won’t be competing this time, but who has ridden at the NFR and PBR Finals, and who is a former champion of the Cushenbery Memorial, is Dave Samsel of Fort Worth, Texas.
“Brett Cushenbery and Ernie Love were both great cowboys, and this is a tremendous event in their memory,” credited Samsel, 42, who has retired from his successful bull riding career, including six qualifications to the PBR Finals and also the National Finals Rodeo in 2007.
Two-time freestyle bullfighting world champion Wacey Munsell of Ulysses will be saving cowboys and fighting bulls as a rodeo attraction.
“Radical” Ryan Rodriquez of Phillipsburg, five times recognized as the Clown Of The Year by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, will be working as the barrel man distracting bulls from cowboys, while also entertaining as the funnyman, and keeping the crowd in stitches between the rides.
“I’ve been to rodeos all over the country from Calgary to Denver to the National Finals rodeos and bull ridings in Las Vegas, but I’m really excited to come to this important benefit bull riding right in my home state,” said Rodriquez, whose sons, Rad and Riot, ages three and seven, are also expected to be part of the entertainment.
Calling the action makes the show, and it’ll be the 10th repeat appearance for Storm Denison, professional rodeo and bull riding announcer from Derby, to announce the benefit.
“I tell you I’ve announced rodeos and bull ridings all over the country, and this benefit has developed into one of the best anywhere,” Denison admitted. “We’ve just been packing in the spectators, and this year will be bigger and better than ever.”