FORT WORTH, Texas ― They call him The King.
His name is George Strait and he’s amassed 60 No. 1 hits and sold more than 70 million albums, so when he announced his farewell tour it made worldwide headlines—especially in Decatur, Texas.
His finale is set for Saturday, June 7, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
It’s the same famous venue that three months earlier hosted the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V.
It’s also the same day J.W. Hart was planning to host his annual Touring Pro Division event at the Wise County Fairgrounds in nearby Decatur.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Hart said, “Being his last concert and all, I didn’t want to steal part of his crowd. We didn’t want to hurt his ticket sales over there at Cowboys Stadium, so we decided to move our date.”
The new date is Saturday, May 31.
But that wound up lying right over the top of Jeff Robinson’s annual two-day event in Asheville, N.C., which is just 30 miles from his hometown of Mars Hill. It also happens to be the marquee bull riding and first of 10 events as part of the annual RMEF Big Bull Tour.
One phone call later, Hart and Robinson, who is the four-time defending Stock Contractor of the Year, cleared up the scheduling snafu and figured out a way to make it better for everyone involved.
They not only swapped weekends – Robinson’s event will take place Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7 – but every rider who enters both events will have an opportunity to win a $15,000 bonus if he happens to win both events on successive weekends.
As for tying the Asheville and Decatur events together, Robinson is pleased to offer a $15,000 bonus.
“He kind of came up with the plan,” Hart said of Robinson’s bonus idea.
Robinson, who is also busy managing multiple trucks on the road filled with the top bucking bulls in the world, has a busy summer schedule and the Asheville event has become a signature event for the North Carolina native.
In addition to the bonus, he said they will award a Paul Briggs Jr. memorial scholarship for a minimum of $5,000.
Briggs, who recently passed away after battling cancer, grew up with Robinson and worked at a local Ford dealership in Asheville. According to Robinson, their families have always been close through the years.
“He was instrumental in bringing the PBR to Asheville, so we’re going to do this for him,” Robinson said. “He was only 37 years old. It was a tough deal, but he never complained.”
Like Hart, Robinson will also give away a home to a wounded veteran with the help of 1,000 Miles from Home, which he also intends to name a bull after beginning this weekend at the Built Ford Tough Series event in Des Moines, Iowa.
Robinson said Wendell Berry had called to inquire about naming rights.
One thing led to another and he raised the needed funds – Robinson called three of his primary sponsors – to give away a home at his event.
As a matter of fact, Robinson credits his partners and sponsors with the continued success not only in Asheville, but also other cities that host TPD events.
Among cities on this year’s RMEF Big Bull Tour will be Lewiston, Idaho, Pendleton, Ore., Tupelo, Miss., and Ft. Myers, Fla., along with the return of Huntsville, Ala., and the debut of Monroe, La.
Robinson said Huntsville is a great community.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” he said. “We’ve done some of these events over and over, so naturally they’re easier the second and third time.”
However, as much as Robinson’s work producing TPD events is a family affair, he relies on Vintage Five owner and President Bo Wagner, who for years has also worked with David Allen producing the annual Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M.
Robinson and Wagner will team up for all 10 RMEF Big Bull Tour events, as well as a few other TPD events between now and the end of the season.
They are also going to help the PBR with a few of the East Coast events on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour.
“It took a lot of planning when we first started,” said Robinson, who relies on Wagner to handle a lot of the day-to-day business of producing multiple events, “but now we’re real lucky and we have Bo Wagner, who works with the Elk Foundation and he sure makes the planning easier.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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