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Sunny finale for Tucson’s rodeo

Citizen Staff Writer



Brandon Reynolds, 11, of Marana was focused and quiet before mounting his steer for the junior bull riding finals competition on Sunday.

He earned first place in the event on Friday for riding his steer 4.9 seconds.

“You just gotta think you’re gonna win and try hard,” he said.

Brandon was competing at the 84th La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, the annual rodeo event at Tucson Rodeo Grounds at 4825 S. Sixth Ave., which is boasting a 31 percent increase from last year, officials said.

“Weather was a big plus,” said Joan Liess, event spokeswoman. “Last year we had a couple of days of bad weather.”

She estimated the rodeo, which began Feb. 21 and ended Sunday, has had more than 50,000 attendees.

Sunday was sold out with 11,000 tickets, she said. And that crowd got to see Brandon’s three brothers, ranging in age from 8 to 20, help him get on the steer and cheer him on as the gates opened.

The steer bolted out and Brandon fell 2.8 seconds later, finishing in fifth place out of five contestants.

Whether he gets first or last place, his family critiques videos of the events, Brandon said.

He competes in about two rodeos a month and so does much of his family.

“It’s like in my blood,” he said.

It’s also in Jesse Smith’s blood.

A cowboy all his life, Smith, 69, of Pritchett, Colo., builds and sells custom saddles. His career spans about 45 years, and it’s his third year at the Tucson Rodeo.

He said he got into the field by accident when, at about 25, he made a saddle for his father, a Colorado cattle rancher. His neighbor liked it, so Smith made him one and has been making saddles ever since.

He makes between 15 to 20 saddles a year.

His most expensive saddle is selling for $10,000 and it took him about 190 hours to make.

The economy has not affected his business yet. He has a waiting list about a year long, he said.

And the economy didn’t stop first-time rodeogoers Eva John, 27, and Claudia Koehler, 45.

Both are originally from North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, but live in Tucson.

Both ride horses, but there was no horse riding in their plans Sunday. There were looking for a “nice cowboy,” Koehler said with a laugh.

It was also the first rodeo for Judy Herbert, 61, of Rockville, Md.

She has been living in Tucson part-time since 2005 and plans to live here full time when her husband, Jeffrey Wennar, 58, an attorney, retires.

She spoke with him Sunday morning.

“He said it was snowing and I told him I put some 45 sunblock on and I’m heading off to the rodeo,” she said.

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