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Bulls and their riders return to Gainesville
Dustin Ebert gets thrown during Sunday’s final day of the Southeastern Championship Bull Riding event at the Georgia Mountains Center. It marked the event’s 15th year in Gainesville.

A chair to get your boots shined and the smells of leather mixing with popcorn in the lobby — sure signs that bull riding was back in Gainesville.

The three-day Southeastern Championship Bull Riding wrapped up its 15th year Sunday at the Georgia Mountains Center.

Hundreds of people, including families and cowboy hat-wearing enthusiasts, passed through the gates and filled the stands of the center arena for the competitive event.

Cowboys vied for prizes as they tried to cling the longest to the backs of bucking bulls.

Audiences cheered as the metal gates flung open and the action began, with some competitors hopping to the ground when they could stand no more.

Other dismounts weren’t so comfortable, with one cowboy examining his hand as he walked from the scene of his landing on the dirt floor.

"With an 1,800-pound bull stepping on you, something is going to get broke or dislocated," said the announcer. "This sport ... is not for sissies or momma’s boys. (They shouldn’t) even apply for this job."

The audience was reminded of the sport’s dangers at the beginning of the show.

"I hope you are prepared for the roughest sport in the business, the roughest game on dirt," said the announcer after the arena had grown dark and the audience was treated to a brief fog and laser light show.

The show also featured clowns and humorous banter between the announcer and show organizer Bryan Hope, one of the clowns.

Chris Truelove and his wife, Liz, of Clermont brought their two children, 12-year-old Kasey and 7-year-old
Kristen, have made the event a family tradition.

"I used to go (to such events) when I was little, and the (children) have just followed up," said Truelove, browsing with Kristen through the various Western accessories for sale.

Kristen still has memories of last year’s event.

"One of the clown’s pants fell off," she said, a wide grin across her face.

Craig McCraw of Atlanta made his first trip to the event Sunday night.

But he was no novice to the sport.

"I’ve been to a dozen or so rodeos over my lifetime," McCraw said. "I grew up around cows."

His Hall County girlfriend’s family invited him to Gainesville. They were able to grab seats close to the ring.

The show hadn’t started yet — there was some preliminary entertainment — but McCraw wasn’t disappointed so far.

"The venue is a little smaller than I expected, but I’m closer than I expected and the music is good," he said.

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