KINGMAN - Over the past 27 years, the Andy Devine Days Rodeo has quietly established itself as a top late-season rodeo.
The fact that the cut-off date for cowboys to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo is at the end of September helps the rodeo attract some of the top cowboys in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, all of them vying for a top 15 finish in the Wrangler World Standings to qualify for the NFR in Las Vegas in December.
"Last year, a majority of the cowboys and cowgirls who qualified for the National Finals Rodeo actually made the stop at our rodeo," said Dustin Lewis, vice president of The Kingsmen. "The PRCA moved some dates around, and they did it to help the cowboys to generate some more money, and it really helped out all these rodeos."
Cowboys and cowgirls will be competing for a minimum $1,500 added money. Last year's rodeo saw a record number of entrants.
Lewis was still tallying the entrants Thursday afternoon, but expected the number to be around 200 if not more.
"It's a well-known rodeo and you start to get a reputation in rodeo," Lewis said. "You get a reputation for how well the grounds are, what the facility is like and things like that. It really draws cowboys, it's a word that is spread throughout the industry of who has good grounds, who has good stock. I don't mean to brag, but we have a good reputation for rodeo."
The rodeo's reputation was boosted in 2007 when it received an award for the most improved arena ground. With additional improvements this year, Lewis is hoping for another award.
"You name it, from one corner to the other, the fairgrounds people have stepped up and did those improvements with us," Lewis said. "They have been great people to work with."
Not only has the list of cowboys and cowgirls competing in the rodeo grown over the years, so has attendance.
Last year the crowd was in excess of 3,000 fans both days, and Lewis expects the same this year as tickets have been selling well.
"It's really grown and it's strange in this economy because some of the worst years in the economy have been our best," Lewis said. "We are probably one of the cheapest rodeos if we're not the cheapest. We just try to make it affordable family fun out there."
The increase in attendance also means the need to add new entertainment to the rodeo to keep it fresh.
This year rodeo has added a clown and will have more entertainment as well as expanding the motorcycle barrel race.
Besides the events inside the rodeo arena, there have been numerous other events. Tonight, fans who paid for the VIP package that included tickets to the rodeo both days will enjoy a dinner and entertainment by Brad Johnson and the Killing Time band, which just finished touring with Toby Keith.
"It really does turn into rodeo week in Kingman," Lewis said. "The business start to decorate a western theme and it kind of goes from there for the rest of the week."