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Scenes during the 80th Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs in July, 2021

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The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo is already one of the premier rodeos in the nation, according to Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation Vice President Rich Bender.

Even so, its 81st annual rodeo is shaping up to be one fans won’t soon forget.

Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo will host the inaugural NFR Open from July 13-16 at the Norris Penrose Event Center. The NFR Open is the new name given to the National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which has been hosted in Kissimmee, Fla., in recent years.

The event will feature a staggering $1 million purse.

The purse for this year’s Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo totaled at $323,152, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association website.

“It’s the No. 2 championship in the PRCA and features champion cowboys from each of the 12 regions of the United States plus Canada,” said Steve Rempelos, chief marketing officer for the PRCA.

Bender says there are more than 900 rodeo events across the country and Canada, each one representing a different region. Those circuits culminate in a regional championship, and the winners of those events, alongside competitors who have earned the most money in a specific event over the course of a circuit, advance to the NFR Open.

What it means is that more than 200 of the best pro rodeo athletes will converge in Colorado Springs in July to compete in the standard PRCA events of bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding. The event will be nationally televised.

“We will see the best that the industry has to offer here in Colorado Springs,” Bender said. “As is the case in any sport, when you have the ability to see the very best at their craft, it’s a pretty special opportunity.”

The winners will earn a spot in the NFR Playoff event, the location of which has yet to be announced. That event will feature a $1.5 million purse, and the winners of that event and the highest earners of the entire circuit, including the NFR Open, will qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, which has traditionally been held in Las Vegas in December.

The event marks a huge win for the Pikes Peak region and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, which has worked to establish the brand in the state, country and in professional rodeo.

“What better slogan for every cowboy and cowgirl in America, when they ride in every one of those 900 rodeos, to have that motto, ‘Pikes Peak or bust'?” Bender said.

According to Rempelos, Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak or Bust were on the short list of rodeos the PRCA looked at to host the Open after the organization and Kissimmee mutually agreed to part ways in 2022. He cited the rodeo’s 80-year history, sold out crowds, the top-notch facilities at Norris Penrose Event Center and a cooperative group of volunteers whose hospitality is unmatched. He also noted the community’s engagement with the event.

In a news release from the PRCA, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo is part of the “community’s history and our heritage.” He also said the opportunity to share the event with a wider audience is great news for the region.

Rempelos concurred, saying it will be much easier for competitors and fans to travel to the NFR Open because Colorado is centrally located, as opposed to Florida. Whereas the National Circuit Finals took place in April, moving the event to July will enable people to plan their vacations around the event. Bender cited the opportunity for fans to visit Pikes Peak, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and, of course, the ProRodeo Hall Of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy.

Since 1946, the proceeds from the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo have been invested back into service members in the Pikes Peak region, and their families.

For Bender, who got involved with Pikes Peak or Bust because his daughter had an affinity for horses and a Western lifestyle as a young child, the rodeo is one of the community’s greatest assets. He said it is a foundational pillar of sporting events in Colorado Springs.

Come next year, the rodeo might be a pillar of sporting events nationwide.

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