Annual Cody rodeo starts up

Marking
its 70th consecutive year, the Cody Nite Rodeo began a new season Friday
offering traditional favorites and new attractions.

The
first-ever Xtreme Bulls event in Cody is set for June 30, and eight-time world
champion bullrider Donnie Gay will serve as grand marshal for the Fourth of
July Stampede Parade.

Tim
Mahieu, a Cody Stampede director and president of the Cody Chamber of Commerce,
said the rodeo remains a “great tourist attraction that gives people a
reason to stay another night in Cody.”

He praised
the work of rodeo promoters Maury and Nikki Tate, saying their efforts have
made a big difference in growing attendance. Among last year’s special events
was a Hells Angels bullriding tournament, and this year is likely to see other
new ideas, Nikki Tate said.

“We
may do a special military appreciation night once a month,” she said.
“We’re definitely open to new ideas and promotions.”

Claudia
Wade, marketing director for the Park County Travel Council, said Cody will be
featured as a unique vacation destination and rodeo town in televised coverage
of the Xtreme Bulls event.

The Xtreme
Bulls tour includes 12 events each year in which 40 top bullriders compete for
up to $50,000 in prize money at each contest.

Wade said
coverage of Xtreme Bulls on the ESPN cable sports network will include
background segments on Cody.

“We’re
very excited about coming to Cody,” said Sam Dunn, general manager for the
Xtreme Bulls tour. “We think it’s going to be one of our best events of
the year.”

Dunn said
because the Xtreme Bulls prize money counts toward standings for the National
Finals Rodeo, the tour generally draws top riders.

“If
you need $80,000 in winnings to make the National Finals, and on one night in
Cody you can ride two bulls and win $20,000, that’s what attracts the best
athletes,” Dunn said.

Wade said
the Cody Stampede board agreed to host Xtreme Bulls this year, with an option
to renew next year.

Though
gasoline prices may have cut into last year’s rodeo attendance, Mahieu said
early indications are that summer reservations in Cody are at or above
expectations.

“Right
now, we’re cautiously optimistic that gas prices are not going to have too much
of an effect,” he said.