Burwell's big, bronc-buckin', steer-wrestlin', bull-ridin' celebration is limbering up for its 90th blowout.
Four days of cowboy competition at Nebraska's Big Rodeo have attracted a record number of contestants and are expected to draw 20,000 to 25,000 people to the Sand Hills community of 1,210 this week.
Rodeo organizers registered 312 entrants in the rodeo's eight events, said organizer Teresa Seidel.
"There's no fear factor in most cowboys," she said. "People love to watch the spills. That's rodeo."
Nebraska's Big Rodeo is noted for continuous action somewhere in the arena — billed as one of the world's largest outdoor rodeo grounds — from the first chute to the final lariat toss.
Rodeo clown acts, mounted flag presentations and other sideshows fill the arena between rodeo events. A dance returns to the arena beer garden Saturday for the first time in years.
"It's a great show. A lot happens in 2½ hours," said Lee Jeffres of Burwell, president of the rodeo board.
All the action may be in the arena, but the color is everywhere.
The arena traditionally is awash in pink shirts, scarves, hats and other attire for the "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" theme, as fans and cowboys display their support of breast cancer research Friday night.
Saturday's afternoon and evening rodeo performances have a patriotic theme. Expect a sea of red, white and blue.
"It's amazing how many flag shirts are out there," Seidel said.
The Westernaires, a precision mounted drill team of high school students from Jefferson County, Colo., will perform Thursday through Saturday.
The rodeo grand marshal is Dean Smith of Texas, a 1952 Olympic gold medal winner in the 400-meter relay and former amateur rodeo champion and movie stunt man.
Seidel said a chuck wagon race, a wild horse race and the dinner bell derby are popular events.
The dinner bell derby is a favorite. Mares and foals brought in by local ranchers are separated for about 90 minutes. The mothers are placed at one end of the arena and the foals at the other. The foals are released and usually lope around for a moment before spotting their mothers and racing across the arena to their dinner.
"It's cute. The kids love it," Seidel said.
The wild horse race involves teams of three cowboys trying to saddle and ride a wild horse around the track.
"Usually, somebody gets to see the ground," Seidel said.
The 8,500-seat grandstand rarely sells out, but can get crowded, Seidel said. Skybox seating is available above the chutes where cowboys mount horses and bulls.
Burwell is 190 miles northwest of Omaha.
Tickets are available online at nebraskasbigrodeo.com, via telephone at 308-346-5010 or at the rodeo box office.
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