Entertainment to the max.
That’s as simple as the description can be, yet there is a down-side to the excitement.
It’s in memory of a champion cowboy taken in his prime of life, but the fun-packed-evening will be for a worthwhile cause.
The ninth annual Brett Cushenbery Memorial Bull Riding is set for 7 p.m., Saturday, April 28, Cico Park, Manhattan.
A.J. Griffin has teamed with Ernie Love, both widely-recognized cowboys, and they’ve “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.
The event honors the life of Brett Cushenbery, who was trampled by a bull at the 2003 Cowboy’s Professional Rodeo Association Prairie Circuit Finals in Hutchinson and died two days later.
“The benefit has been getting bigger and better every year,” Griffin said. “We had the bull riding in K-State’s Weber Arena before, but it has outgrown those facilities.
“We are excited to be at Cico Park to accommodate the constantly-increasing attendance,” Griffin added.
Ernie Love, Griffin’s neighbor east of Manhattan, and has been involved in production of the benefit from the start.
“I’ve been a part of rodeos all of my life, and this bull riding has developed into one of the most successful events I’ve known,” Love commented.
Proceeds will go to benefit activities of the Kaw Valley Rodeo Association, which is expanding its efforts to increase awareness of the sport of rodeo and the Western-way-of-life.
“Since we started, we’ve raised more than $22,000 to benefit the sport of rodeo and bull riding, all in memory of Brett Cushenbery,” Griffin related.
“None of this would be possible without generous sponsorships and partnerships from supporters and businesses,” Griffin emphasized.
R.C. McGraw’s, local Western night club, managed by Nick Powers, was credited for corporate support from the beginning. “We really appreciate their involvement,” Griffin acknowledged.
Powers accentuated, “R.C. McGraw’s is so happy to help with this great program in memory of an outstanding young cowboy, recognize his family, and benefit the community.”
“Several sponsorships have been contracted, but there are additional partnerships available,” Griffin noted.
“The bulls will be supplied by Jimmy Crowther of Roxbury and Matt Williams of Arkansas City,” Griffin said.
Both contractors have had bulls at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Championship Bull Riding and Professional Bull Riders Finals in Las Vegas.
“We don’t know exactly who will be entered until that night, but we’ll have many cowboys competing who have ridden in the National Finals Rodeo, as well as CBR and the PBR Finals,” he said.
Forty cowboys will ride in the first-go-round, with the top ten contestants coming back in the short-go-round, from which winners will be named.
One cowboy who won’t be competing this time, but who has ridden at the NFR and PBR Finals, is Dave Samsel of Fort Worth, Texas, a former champion of the Cushenbery Memorial.
“Brett Cushenbery was a great cowboy, who I went to school with, and this is a tremendous event in his memory,” Samsel credited.
A free-style-bull-fight with four contestants is expected to again be a highlight of the evening.“My hat’s off to A.J., Ernie and all of the folks who’ve stepped up to make such an excellent and beneficial program.”
“Freestyle bullfighting is a 90-second competition, where the bullfighter avoids the bull by means of dodging, jumping, and using a barrel. The fighters’ ability to remain close to the bull, without losing their footing determines scoring,” Griffin detailed.
Although, two-time freestyle bullfighting world champion and a former contestant at the Cushenbery Memorial, Wacey Munsell won’t be competing this time, he plans to be in attendance to provide commentary during the competition.
Likely the one to be most remembered of the evening’s entertainment will be “Radical” Ryan Rodriquez of Phillipsburg, five times recognized as the PRCA Clown Of The Year.
He’ll 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,” Rodriquez said.
Calling the action makes the show, and it’ll be the ninth repeat appearance for Storm Denison, professional rodeo and bull riding announcer from Derby, to announce the Cushenbery benefit.
“I’m so happy to help out again this year, and so privileged to be a part of the bull riding. I really want to encourage everyone to come out for a great evening of wholesome family entertainment and all for a worthwhile cause,” Denison welcomed.