The Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo is growing, and that is a great thing for the Bridgeport community.

The annual rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 9, and Saturday, May 10, at Sunset Retreat Arena, boasts of a record number of entries — up 41 from a year ago to 518 this spring.

“It is really exciting to have that many contestants coming to compete at our rodeo,” said David Turnbow, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “It just keeps getting bigger and better every year. It blows my mind what this little thing does.”

There are many attractive features to Bridgeport’s rodeo, from being a great time of year to being part of the community’s annual celebration to the city’s proximity to a lot of great rodeo competitors. Here’s something of great importance: These are the greatest contestants in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

In fact, the field in this year’s rodeo includes nearly 80 cowboys and cowgirls who have played on the grandest stage in the sport, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Making it to the year-end championship is a remarkable feat, given that only 15 contestants in each event earn the right to play for the biggest pay in the game.

Led by Decatur’s Trevor Brazile, who owns 19 gold buckles, there are 65 world championships represented. That includes multiple-time winners like heeler Rich Skelton (8), Fred Whitfield (8), Bobby Mote (4), Rocky Patterson (3), Will Lowe (3) and several who have earned two world titles.
The contingent includes reigning world champs like Brazile, who won gold in steer roping and the all-around, team ropers Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill, who each won their second title. All four cowboys are atop the standings in each of those disciplines just a week and a half before Bridgeport’s rodeo.

“It’s close to home, which is always a good thing,” said barrel racer Carlee Pierce, a two-time NFR qualifier form Stephenville, Texas. “I placed last year, and I won it the year before. One thing I like is that I’ve been in a performance, and I’ve been in slack, and that committee is awesome on making sure the ground is good.”

Good footing is important in all events, but it’s particularly important in barrel racing, where times are separated by hundredths of a second. Pierce, who finished in the top five in both 2011 and 2012, was the reserve world champion two seasons ago.

“That committee has done wonders, and I really like what that committee has done,” she said.

Whether it’s good ground for barrel racers or great bucking animals from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, the volunteers who work hard all year to produce the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo are drawing fans and the world’s best competitors to town.

It’s a valuable combination.

Tickets for the rodeo are $10 if purchased before May 9 at the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce (cash only) or $12 nightly at the gate.