On Friday, January 11, rodeo athletes will compete at the World Champion Rodeo Alliance's Windy City Roundup in Chicago's Allstate Arena, for $50,000 to be paid to first in each event. For the first time ever, breakaway ropers will compete for the same amount of money on the same stage as the rest of the professional rodeo events.
"It’s cool to see because the breakaway ropers, at large, are really grateful for the opportunity," Bobby Mote, President of the WCRA, said. "Jackie Crawford got to go and drop the puck at a Black Hawks game. I’m glad that they get to experience some of that stuff."
Eight of the top breakaway ropers who qualified from the semi-finals at the Lazy E Arena in November will run one head on the big stage. Then the two fastest runs in will then come back to a showdown round.
"First wins $50,000 and second wins $25,000," Mote said. "Even third place, the guy that doesn’t make the showdown round, still wins $12,500, so it pays great."
With this being the first time that the breakaway ropers have the same opportunity to rope for a large payout Motes and the PBR have strived to make sure that they are noticed as equal.
"I’m really anxious to see how it goes," Mote added. "I think that someone had to step out there and say why wouldn’t they be treated the same as everybody else—run for equal money, do everything the same as everyone else. I think the crowd is going to love it and be excited to see it. It’s fast paced and the calf always wins, it’s fun to watch. I think in a lot of ways I’m looking forward to seeing those ladies win big money."
The livestock for the WCRA Windy City Roundup were picked and sorted out by the pros from the steers and calves that were ran at the 2018 NFR.
"The team roping steers were picked by some of the team ropers at the NFR out of the best steers from the NFR," Mote said. "Those steers have recently proven that they hold up well under the small arena type circumstances. The calves were prepared to go up there and allow for fast runs and be healthy and be the right kind of cattle, as well as the steer wrestling steers."
The breakaway ropers will be roping the larger set of the NFR calves. On Thursday, all of the contestants are encouraged to help run all of the cattle through and have the chance to practice behind the barrier and set up of the rodeo so that everyone has a fair chance.
"We want to let them run the cattle through behind the barrier that way if someone is first out they will have a good feel of what the start looks like, feels like and it’s not as much of a disadvantage," Mote said. "It’s nobody’s advantage to try and illuminate anybody because they were first or second out. We want it to be the best possible—the best competitive playing field that we can make it. We try to take every element, the luck of the draw stuff, out as best as we can."
The PBR handles WCRA production—the dirt, the steel—and the association works closely with them on planning out the performance and the talent. It is held the same weekend as the PBR's Chicago event.
In all of events but breakaway roping, the champions from the Days of '47 Cowboys Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, are exempted to compete in Chicago, which means there are nine team roping teams and nine contestants in every event.
"The reason why Days of 47 is added in there is because the winner from each major gets an exemption to the next two majors," Mote said. "For instance, the breakaway roper that wins Chicago will get an exemption to the next $1 million dollar major that will be held June 1. So the next major will have nine breakaway ropers instead of eight."
The WCRA is working hard to get everyone involved. The reason they have alliance in their name is that they strive to work together with other associations to help grow the sport as a whole, Mote said.
"I just hope that everybody that stood on the sidelines will see that this thing is for real," Mote said. "One of the biggest misconceptions is that because rodeo is always run a year-long season that ends with a finals, a lot of people have been under the idea that this is the finals. I don’t think they realize that we’ve already started the combination process for the next segment and they’re going to have another chance at a quarter-finals, a semi-finals and a major all between now and the first of June."
Windy City Roundup Breakaway Ropers:
Lari Dee Guy