When: 8 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville
How much: Adults $17, 12 and younger $10 for today's events; adults $15, 12 and younger $6, 55 and older $10 on Sunday
More information: 770-534-8420
An often-quoted saying about bull riding is "it's not if you get hurt, it's when." But for David Barton of South Carolina, the thrill of riding outweighs the danger.
"There's no other feeling like it. It's a huge adrenaline rush," Barton said Friday.
This weekend, cowboys are competing to stay on the backs of bucking and hopping bulls at a Southeastern Championship Bull Riding event in Gainesville. The event began Friday night and will continue tonight and Sunday at the Georgia Mountains Center.
Promoter Bryan Hope said 44 bulls from across the South were brought in for the competition. A quick look at the bull pen Friday revealed some bulls may offer a more forgiving ride than others.
"I wouldn't look forward to Whammer Time," Barton said of the half-ton bull.
The bull Liquor's Quicker also promises to be a challenge, Hope said. The horned beast was named "bucking bull of the year" by the Southern Rodeo Association.
But a tough bull could earn a rider more points.
Riders try to stay on top of their randomly assigned bull for at least eight seconds, while the animal bucks its way around the arena. Then, the top riders will face off, and a new champion is named each night, Hope said.
Bull riding is an unpredictable business, and a bull can't be judged by its size, Hope said.
"Liquor's Quicker is smaller, but the jumps, kicks and spins will buck people off," he said.
As a rodeo clown for Southeastern Championship Bull Riding, Hope said he has seen the damage the animals can do. He's been in the business 37 years.
"They can hit you low and send you high in the air or hit you high and knock you down," he said. "That's the most dangerous, because they could step on you."
In the past, Hope helped keep riders safe as a "bullfighting" clown, but this weekend, he'll just be telling jokes.
"You learn to stay out of the way, and as you get older you learn to get completely out of the way and leave it to the 20-year-olds," Hope said.
Organizers said they expect nearly 1,800 people to fill the arena for tonight's show at 8 p.m.
Rodeo clown Mike Wentworth will entertain audiences in between rounds and there also will be a performance by local singer and songwriter Alex Hall. Hall, a student at Chestatee High School, will also play a gig at 9 p.m. tonight at the Monkey Barrel in Gainesville.
Georgia Mountains Center Director Carol Moore said people are generally drawn to the fast-paced nature of the bull riding events. It's also one of the biggest events of the year at the center.
"People have a lot of fun and it's something different," Moore said. "This isn't something people usually get to see."