Abilene turns into a cowboy celebration town this week.
When the chutes open, more than 350 cowboys and cowgirls will stampede to town for the 75th anniversary of the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo August 4-7.
Of the twelve champions from the 2019 rodeo, seven return to defend their titles.
Champs from two years ago include bareback rider Ty Blessing, steer wrestling co-champions Stockton Graves and Cody Devers, saddle bronc rider Colt Gordon, tie-down roping co-champs JD McCuistion and Treg Schaack, and bull rider Trey Benton. They will be on hand to attempt to win an Abilene title two consecutive times.
The rodeo boasts talent from the top of the PRCA world standings.
Tie-down roper Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., is ranked first in his event; he is also the 2013 world champion.
Barrel racers Emily Miller-Beisel, Weatherford, Okla., is ranked fourth; Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D. is sixth.
Of the top fifteen bull riders in the world standings, four of them are entered in Abilene: JB Mauney, Cotulla, Texas (third); Creek Young, Ft. Scott, Kan. (sixth); Dustin Boquet, Bourg, La. (ninth); and Trey Benton, Richards, Texas (fourteenth). Young, who is twenty years old, has a commanding lead in the Resistol Rookie standings with a nearly $38,000 lead over the number two man.
Mauney, a former two-time PBR world champion and legendary bull rider, has forgone PBR competition this year for PRCA competition and is in the hunt for his first PRCA world title.
The Abilene contestant list is also peppered with 2020 PRCA world champions, including tie-down roper Shad Mayfield, Clovis, Utah; steer wrestler Jacob Edler, Alva, Okla., and barrel racer Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, Texas.
The rodeo kicks off August 4 and runs through August 7. Performances begin at 7:30 pm nightly.
Slack, the extra rodeo competition that doesn’t fit into the performances, is at 8 am on Wed., August 4.
Rodeo tickets can be purchased at the Central Kansas Free Fairgrounds office, at West’s Country Mart in Abilene, at area retailers, and at the gate.
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Photo: A bull rider competes at the 2019 Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo. This year’s rodeo features more than 350 competitors. Photo by Fly Thomas.