10/04/07 — Rodeo makes return to county fair

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Rodeo makes return to county fair

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on October 4, 2007 1:45 PM

The lights were bright, the energy high. The audience was ready to see dirt fly.

Words from Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" rang out over the loudspeakers, evoking memories of "Top Gun," but these weren't riders in the sky. They were riders in the "most dangerous sport on dirt."

The bull-riding competition at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair opened its second night Wednesday, with the bulls packed into their shoots, jostling the riders as they eased into place.

"Those bulls are a hopping and a jumping," Double Duce Arena owner Don Stroud announced to the crowd. "They're going to keep on doing it all night."

Fans packed the fairground bleachers, waiting to see if the riders could hang on for the full eight seconds

Few did.

Second-place winner Bran-don Chambers was one of them.

A 19-year-old professional rider from Newport, bull riding is dangerous but the thrill is more than worth the challenge.

He has had three teeth broken, a shattered jaw and his lip completely torn off his face - which, he pointed out, took about 22 stitches to reattach.

"It's the biggest rush you can get," he said.

He used to surf, ride BMX bikes and skateboard -- but they just didn't give him the adrenaline rush he was looking for.

Skateboarding, and a bet, brought him to the sport.

"I was skateboarding and got hurt. I was with a few of my buddies at a bull ride at a fair like this, and I said, 'That doesn't look too hard.' So my buddies told me that I would be scared, and they bet me that I wouldn't do it. I couldn't be wrong. I couldn't let them know I was scared, so I tried it. Loved it ever since."

Third-place winner Chad Holmes was another rider who fell head over heals -- literally -- for the sport.

"I love it," he said.

The 23-year-old from Aberdeen said there is nothing in the world that gets the juices flowing like climbing on the back of a 2,000-pound bull.

After getting tossed, Holmes almost got trampled, but he quickly escaped the still-bucking bull.

"Hey, he knows what the undercarriage of that bull looks like," Stroud announced.

Despite the best efforts of Chambers and Holmes, DeShawn Williams took home the first-place trophy.

At 29, he said, some competitors have told him he is too old to continue to ride.

He disagrees.

"It's my passion. It's man versus beast. There's nothing better than that."

The Smithfield native used to train and ride bucking horses for himself, but said he eventually needed more of a challenge.

So he started riding bulls.

During Tuesday night's round, he wore a football helmet for protection.

"He wanted to be a football player, but he changed his mind," Stroud said over the loudspeaker.

With the sound of "We Will Rock You," rocking the arena, the crowd tensed as the chute prepared to open.

"We are going to have a little explosion come out of that shoot," Stroud said, just as Williams tipped his head to let the handlers know to turn the bull loose.

Despite the bull's best efforts, Williams made it to the eight-second buzzer -- barely.

"Son, that's what you call by the hair of your chinny chin chin," Stroud said as Williams finally disentangled himself from the rig.

He said he was lucky, compared to some previous rides.

"I have had my nose almost ripped off,. My wrist has been shattered," he said. But he quickly added that the injuries have never made him think about taking up another sport, never bothered him as he settled onto another bull's back.

"I just concentrate on the ride, jump for jump," he said. "I just try to stay on top."