When the COVID-19 pandemic halted PRCA rodeos in mid-March, there were plenty of nervous moments for cowboys who make a living competing in ProRodeo.
Cave Creek (Ariz.) Rodeo Days, May 22-24, was the first PRCA-sanctioned rodeo to happen following the pandemic shutdown, and more and more rodeos took place before the end of the regular season Sept. 30.
As thankful as contestants were that the PRCA was able to forge ahead with rodeos, they were even more appreciative that a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will take place.
Because of COVID-19, the 2020 Wrangler NFR was moved from Las Vegas, the home of the marquee event since 1985, to Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, Dec. 3-12.
“We are so grateful that everybody at the (PRCA) office and everybody involved was able to put this together,” four-time world champion Tuf Cooper said. “It is so cool that it is right here in my home state, but honestly, as contestants we are grateful and thrilled that we are getting to have an NFR. Fans are excited about showing up and watching the greatest rodeo event of the entire year. We’re so excited that we get to be competing against each other for a world championship.”
Cooper will be competing at his 12th Wrangler NFR and fourth in a row.
Steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge, a seven-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, is thrilled the PRCA took care of the competitors during the challenging times of the 2020 season.
“I really appreciate the PRCA going above and beyond what they did to have (an NFR),” Eldridge said. “We stuck our necks out on the line all year long not knowing what was going to happen. I just kept telling guys and everybody who was asking me that I’m just relying on the PRCA having our back, and thank goodness they did. Now, we have something to drive for, practice for and keep our horses in shape for.”
Eldridge acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was tough to digest.
“When this COVID deal hit, it was like ‘Oh, man,'” Eldridge said. “It was a rude awakening. Boy, life is different not having a full-on task and (not) being able to go to rodeos. When you dedicate your whole life to rodeo and you don’t have a side job or anything, you’re empty there for a minute. Luckily, I stay busy with hunting, snowmobiling and everything else. At the same time, when your life evolves around horses staying in shape and rodeoing, it was like, ‘Whoa.’
“So, when it (the PRCA) stepped up and was going to have a few rodeos, I thought, ‘You know what, I better go to them and make the best of it.’ I’m glad I did because I think it is going to be a great experience (at the NFR) in Texas.”
Courtesy of PRCA