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Cowboy up: Bull riding championship returns
Event continues today at Chicopee Woods
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Justin Ethridge rides a bull Friday during the Southeastern Bull Riding Championship at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville. Thirty bulls were used during for event. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Southeastern Bull Riding Championship

When: 8 p.m. April 22

Where: Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center, 1855 Calvary Church Road, Gainesville

Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for kids under 12, under 2 free

Bull riding can be a dangerous sport.

It’s why people were sitting on the edge of their seats and jumping to their feet when one of the 30 cowboys at Friday’s Southeastern Bull Riding Championship was bucked from his mount.

“We like to have fun,” said event organizer and rodeo clown Brian Hope. He has been hosting the event for the past 27 years.

“Gainesville has been great to us,” Hope said.

If you missed the fun Friday night, it continues today at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center.

Adults get in for $15, kids under 12 get in for $10 and kids under 2 get in free.

“It’s a really family-friendly event,” Hope said. “You see as many kids as you do adults.”

Vendors at the event sold everything from belt buckles to tractors and cowgirl hats and offered knife sharpening services. There were also $5 animatronic bull rides.

On Friday, 30 cowboys rode bulls, including Buford teen Justin Ethridge.

Ethridge, 17, won the competition last year. Since then, he’s traveled all over the Southeast bull riding, as far as Texas and back.

While the sport itself is dangerous, he said he does it so he stays out of trouble.

He has another reason for riding.

“My dad rode bulls for 12 years, so I wanted to keep the tradition,” he said.

Justin’s older brother Josh Ethridge also rode in Friday’s event.

Tyler Hale, a 19-year-old from Clermont, said he hasn’t been injured yet.

Among the cowboys, the phrase “it’s not if, it’s when” is the motto of when they will be hurt and how seriously.

Hale has been riding two and a half years and practices every week for big championships like these.

“You give 100 percent all of the time,” Hale said.

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