Cullison and the Kingsmen strive to keep the rodeo alive

The 2017 Andy Devine Days Rodeo and Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Mohave County Fairgrounds. Action concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Miner File Photo

The 2017 Andy Devine Days Rodeo and Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Mohave County Fairgrounds. Action concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday.

KINGMAN – Ray Cullison is no stranger to the western way of life.

The Kingsmen president grew up for a short time on a ranch in the Music Mountains and has strived to keep western heritage alive in Kingman with the Andy Devine Days Rodeo and Festival.

“It’s near and dear to my heart to try to keep the sport of rodeo and, of course, the life of ranching alive,” Cullison said. “The more and more we sell off properties where farming or grazing once was and it becomes houses, we’re losing our ability to keep a farm, raise cattle and grow crops. We don’t want that to happen, otherwise we won’t be able to supply the human race with food.”

Rodeo did disappear for a a few years in 1979 before the Kingsmen revived it in 1985 with the annual Andy Devine Days. Cullison and each president before him have the goal to make the rodeo bigger and better each year.

As of Thursday afternoon, Cullison was setting up bleachers to accommodate a crowd of 1,700-plus for PRCA Rodeo events this weekend at the Mohave County Fairgrounds.

Saturday’s action kicks off at 6 p.m. and features saddle bronc, barrel racing, calf roping, mutton busting, calf dressing and bull riding. Fans can see the same events starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Last year’s Saturday event sold out, so Cullison and his fellow Kingsmen are providing more space this year.

“As it grows and the audience grows, we will grow with it,” Cullison said. “We’ll make it accommodating for however many spectators we have.”

The audience that makes it way to the fairgrounds won’t just be Kingman residents. Cullison said last year a news team from France traveled to Kingman and filmed a piece on Route 66 and the rodeo.

This year Cullison expects a few different non-related couples to make the trip from London. Two missed the rodeo last year and scheduled their vacation so they could attend their first rodeo Sunday.

“We’re excited to have people from other countries come get to see what a rodeo is all about,” Cullision said. “They’re excited and we’re excited.”