By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

Tonight, Friday, July 18th, will be remembered as one of the pinnacles of the summer thanks to the 16th annual Bull Riding in the Rockies.

The event is hosted every year by the Columbia Valley Rockies, who offer a Cowboy Dinner before the riding, and throw a Country-western dance after the action.

Bull riding is an extreme sport and it gets everybody pumped up really good, so we always count on a good band to play quality, up-to-date rock and roll, said Al Miller, president of the Columbia Valley Rockies.

Keeping the energy alive during the dance after the show will be KixxSin, a quad of country-rockers from Calgary. When the band KixxSin, their motto goes, the party Kixx ass!

The riding component will bring 30 cowboys into the B.C. Rockies, from as far away as Mexico, Paraguay, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. The show takes place outdoors on the east side of the Invermere Curling Club back to the same layout as four years ago, allowing for a larger arena, more seating, and extra entertainment from the rodeo clown. Guests will enter through the same special entrance as always. And the organizers will make sure that the bulls involved will give the cowboys an intense ride.

A cowboy has to earn the right by being up in the top riders to be eligible to come to the Columbia Valley, Mr. Miller said, explaining that a ranking system allows the Rockies to recruit the most entertaining riders.

Its based on the points they earn [through professional bull riding]; we pay to have higher quality cowboys.

Competitors call the act of bull riding eight seconds of hell, Mr. Miller said. Its an extreme sport, these people hop on these and then let them loose.

Riders can only earn points during the first eight seconds on the bull. If the cowboy manages to last longer, he can only look for the softest way off. But during the time that counts, cowboys aim to endure a wild ride as a panel of judges considers the intensity of their feat.

An extreme ride is going to count much higher on the scale than a cowboy who sits on a calm bull.

Mr. Miller said many spectators prefer Bull Riding in the Rockies over similar events held at the Calgary Stampede, as the local show puts the crowd right in the midst of the action.

Youre so close, you can smell it.

For more appetizing odours, spectators can arrive early for the Cowboy Dinner, which begins after doors open at 5 p.m. and lasts until about 6:30 p.m. Bull riding begins at 7:15 p.m., with the dance to follow inside the Curling Club running until 1 a.m. and catering to a 20s and older crowd, Mr. Miller said.

The event is a major fundraiser for the Columbia Valley Rockies Junior B hockey team, generating upwards of ten per cent of the organizations annual revenue.

In order to facilitate a good Junior B team in the KIJHL, it takes many, many hours of work on behalf of the directors and volunteers, and fundraising is a huge part of the effort, he said. We fundraise all year round in order to keep the boys playing the coolest sport on earth.

Tickets cost $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and students, and $8 for the cowboy supper. They can be purchased ahead of time from Tiffanys Threadz and Home Hardware in Invermere, the Mountainside Markets in Radium Hot Springs and Fairmont Hot Springs, and the Brisco General Store.