Mille Lacs County Fair fans will have something new and different to talk about this year, with the fair’s first bull riding competition scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, at the horse arena.
With the mantra, “Fortune favors the brave,” bull riders and fans alike will have the chance to see if the axiom proves true this year.
County fair organizers Pat Braun and Tana Haugen-Brown didn’t have to go far to find a world-class bull riding company to showcase this energy-driven exhibition. Rice Bull Riding Co., owned and operated by Dave and Christina Rice, is located right here in Mille Lacs County. Its Princeton headquarters are just a stone’s throw from the fairgrounds.
“We’ve had rodeos and events like that in the past, but we’ve never had bull riding,” Haugen-Brown said.
The events are scheduled as the main attraction to wrap up this year’s fair, and the board is ecstatic to feature something new, while incorporating its desire to showcase more local groups and talents.
“It’s our big event that we’re highlighting,” Braun said. “I think it’s fabulous, not only to bring in a new event, but it’s a local company that we can utilize.”
The Rices are equally excited to share their love for bull riding with their friends, family and neighbors. What began as a humble operation in 1997, Rice Bull Riding has grown to be the largest and most successful bull riding company in Minnesota. From Iowa to North Dakota, Farmington to Pine City, South Dakota to Wisconsin and Browerville to Le Center, the Rice Bull Riding Company has been busy this summer traveling all over the state and Midwest. The couple said it will be nice to host an event much closer to home.
“His family is deeply rooted here,” Christina Rice said of her husband. “So, it’s a big deal for us to be able to do this in the hometown.”
Along with the traditional professional bull riders vying for a $5,000 purse and competing for points in the National Bull Riding Association circuit, the event at the fair will include mutton busting for youth, cowgirl barrel racing, cowboy poker and comedy clown acts.
For those unfamiliar with the bull riding scene, mutton busting is an event for children. Rather than a bull, kids can learn the feel of the sport by first trying the more subdued animal — sheep. The Rices said it’s a popular event and participants really get a “kick” out of it.
“Every child gets a trophy for everyone that participates,” Christina Rice said. “The clown and the bull riders are all out there cheering them on.”
The older, fearless fans can participate in the cowboy poker event, in which riders with Hula-Hoops will compete to be the last one standing with their hoop.
“The crowd gets a bigger enjoyment out of this one,” Dave Rice said.
Big plans are underway for the closing ceremonies, in which the winning bull rider is celebrated.
“We’ll have some pyrotechnics, if that’s OK with you guys,” Dave Rice said to the fair board members. “We’ll blow stuff up.”