The thrills & spills of pro rodeo in Merrill this weekend
The Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo returns to the Lincoln County Fairgrounds on Friday evening.
The annual event will kick-off at 7 p.m. with “Armed Services Appreciation Night.” As part of Friday’s event, $1 from each ticket sold at the gate, up to $500, will be donated to the Never Forgotten Honor Flight. According to WRPR Vice-President Pete Annis, all proceeds from the night will sponsor four Lincoln County veterans for an upcoming Honor Flight in the fall.
Saturday morning will feature an antique stock tractor pull. Weigh in begins at 10 a.m. with pulls to follow. Saturday’s rodeo is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start time. Live country music will be provided by Central Wisconsin based, Raised Reckless, both Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. until midnight. The five piece band won the State Country Band Championship at the 2014 Hodag Country Music Festival last summer in Rhinelander.
Sunday’s festivities are set to begin at 1 p.m. with the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” rodeo performance. Contestants and fans are asked to wear pink in support of cancer education, awareness and treatment. Pink apparel will be sold on the grounds Sunday for those who are interested in supporting the cause.
All proceeds will stay in Central Wisconsin as they will be passed along to the Marshfield Clinic.
Along with the events rodeo enthusiasts and fans have come to enjoy and expect such as bronc riding, steer wrestling and tie-down roping, event announcer Kelly Kinney will also return this weekend.
A new addition to this weekend’s event will be Rodeo Clown/Barrelman Brian Potter and his unforgettable act with “Hershey” The Driving Horse. Other tricks up the clown’s sleeve include “Motorcross Mike” and “Redneck Fireworks,” amongst many others.
The rodeo has also added three additional sets of bleachers to this weekend’s event, which will seat an additional 700 fans.
“Everything is all set,” Annis said on Monday afternoon as preparations for the event was winding down for the day. “We’re pretty excited! We have a new clown this year and a new stock contractor in Barnes PRCA. We are also trying a new game called Bull Bingo.”
As Annis explains, spectators will have the opportunity to buy one square of many inside a pen. When all the squares are purchased, a bull or steer will be turned loose inside the pen. Whichever square the bull or steer decides to drop manure on, the contestant who purchased said square wins.
“It should be fun. I’m looking forward to it!” Annis adds.
Along with all the contestants who travel considerable distances to compete in Merrill, several local cowboys and cowgirls will be competing.
Friday night, Levi Lassa of Merrill will be competing in steer wrestling, while his brother Noah will be competing in steer wrestling, team roping and calf roping. Amy Butler will compete in women’s barrel racing and Jeff Butler will compete in team roping.
Saturday night will feature Lee VanDerGeest in team roping and Katie VanDerGeest in women’s barrels; Gabe Gualtney will compete in steer wrestling and team roping and Beth Gualtney will compete in women’s barrels; Todd Mattson will compete in team roping.
Sunday’s performance will include several Merrill area women in the barrel racing event, including Karissa Gipple, Kristin VanDerGeest, Jamie Lenzner, Tammy Kowolski and Marissa Wallace.
The new Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo queen will be crowned on Sunday, June 14 at 12:30 p,.m. just prior to the 1 p.m. rodeo performance.
The candidates are Morgan, daughter of Michael Zernicke and Patti Zernicke, Wausau; Shaydi, daughter of Laurie Ippolito and Kevin Rochon, Wausau; Lillianna, daughter of Adam Neumann and Kimberly Perra, Merrill; and April, daughter of Virgil Hanke, Merrill.
The contestants will be selling tickets to the Rodeo until noon Friday, June 12. Ticket sales are one of the components of the queen contest.
The reigning rodeo royalty will preside over this year’s event. The 2015 Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo Queen is Katelyn Bradley, daughter of Grant and Alicia Bradley of Antigo, and the 2015 Princess is Mikaela Meier, daughter of David and Donna Meier of Merrill.
For more information, visit www.wrpr.rodeo.