On the opening night of the Iron Horse Rodeo in Pacific’s Liberty Field equestrian arena, local cowboy Brandon Venhaus stole the show, but not in the way spectators expected.
After completing his bronc ride Friday evening, Venhaus told the announcer to ask his girlfriend, Stacy Apke, to come into the arena. When she did, he knelt on one knee in front of her and handed her an engagement ring.
When she said yes and Vehnaus gave her a bear hug, the crowd squealed, whistled and shouted as enthusiastically as they would for any of the ropers, steer wrestlers, barrel racers or bull riders who followed.
It was a big event for local cowboys and cowgirls as multiple members of the Kraus, McSorley and Weber families were among more than 100 competitors.
Spectators filled the bleachers by 7 p.m. for both Friday and Saturday competitions.
An eight-member contingent of Moolah Mounted Lancers in the traditional red jackets and fezzes trooped the colors to open the competition.
At one point, rodeo clown Porkchop invited kids under the age of 10 to come into the ring for their own competition. Adults were on their feet as kids raced after two calves in hopes of retrieving strips of tape attached to their ring.
When the gates opened at 4 p.m. crowds began to arrive at the vendor midway where the smell of funnel cakes, apple dumplings and pizza filled the air. One after the other, youngsters donned cowboy hats that could be bought from four different booths.
By 7 p.m. spectators filled the bleachers on both sides of the arena that were set up for 2,000 for the final rodeo of the 2013 season for Outlaw Rodeo, based in Columbia.
Outlaw Rodeo has 17 rodeos between May 31 and Oct. 12, including the Pacific event and the Washington Town and Country Fair bull ride in August.
In the past, Eureka firefighters hosted the final rodeo of the season as a benefit. When firefighters decided not to host a rodeo this year, Pacific got the date, as the first rodeo in the Liberty Field equestrian arena.
On Saturday, Mike Gillum, Outlaw Rodeo owner, announced that the event had drawn a sell out-crowd. Gillum also predicted that 25 years from now Pacific would still be welcoming the rodeo to the Liberty Field arena.
Although the crowd cheered for the competitors in each event, the showstopper was the closeout competition of bull riding where at least three riders stayed on until the eight-second buzzer sounded.
Outlaw Rodeo officials said they could not post the times of each contestant until Monday morning due to having to tear down the holding pens and chutes and transport stock back to their Columbia headquarters.
The city of Pacific, Pacific Tourism Commission and the Pacific Partnership hosted the event, which was staged to benefit the city parks system.