No Bull: Mutton Busting is a Crowd Pleaser at Will Rogers Stampede Rodeo

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When it comes to rodeo fun, there’s nuttin’ like mutton.

At the upcoming Will Rogers Stampede Rodeo, young cowboys and cowgirls who qualify will get the chance to test their mettle at this wild and woolly – very woolly – fan-favorite event.

But what IS mutton busting?

“Mutton busting is simple: children between the ages of 4 and 7 years old clamber aboard a wild sheep and try to hold on for six seconds,” explained Tanya Andrews, Visit Claremore. “It’s a fun, and safe, recreation of bull riding – another rodeo staple – that’s so much fun for the kids and the family members watching them try to catch and hang onto, or even ride, the sheep.”

But not just anyone can bust a mutton. Only the best of the flock are selected for this safe-but-challenging event.

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“The qualifier (for mutton busting) is sponsored by Mid-America Feeds, and will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 1, at the Cowboy Gathering Church in Talala,” Andrews said.“In years past, in rodeo history, mutton busting was all the rage for the kids – and of course, for the parents and the grandparents who would come to watch.

“But the event got so popular over the years – when you have 75-100 entries, it’s really hard to get them all in before the rodeo performance starts,” she continued. “So, we started hosting a qualifier, of which, the top 45 contestants will perform at the rodeo. Those performances are split up over the three nights (of the rodeo), so there are 15 (performances) each night.”

Andrews said the event helps involve children and make them feel like they’re a more active part of the rodeo, with small cash prizes going to the top mutton busters.

Additional entertainment will be provided in the form of a calf scramble, sponsored by Carrie Robinson, The Ross Team and Pembrook Reality, the One Armed Bandit John Payne, and Bobby Reid, who literally drops in on all the action.

“Bobby (Reid) is a ‘jumper’ – he jumps out of a plane,” Andrews said. “He was here last year and did a fabulous job – he flies over (rodeo grounds) in a plane and jumps out with a parachute that opens up into an American flag. He comes in right after the national anthem is sung – it’s a great thing to see.”

Prior to the beginning of this year’s rodeo, there will be a steer roping event in honor of the longtime rodeo advocate and promoter, the late Clem McSpadden.

“It will just be steer roping Thursday night (May 26), which will give contestants a chance to compete outside of the normal dates scheduled for the rodeo – it’s a large contestant pool – we have numerous entrants who come in just for the steer roping,” Andrews said. “So that will allow for time for other events, such as the timed events, during the rodeo itself.”

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All competitors at the rodeo are Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-certified.

Mutton Bustin begins at
7 p.m. with the PRCA-sanctioned events to begin at 8 p.m. each night.

The 76th annual PRCA Will Rogers Stampede Rodeo will be held Memorial weekend, from Friday, May 27, through Sunday, May 29, at the Will Rogers Stampede Arena, 13601 E. 480 Road in Claremore.

This year, Visit Claremore is partnering with Claremore Main Street and the Claremore Chamber of Commerce to host the Boots on the Boulevard food truck night Thursday, May 26, from 6-9 p.m. with activities for children, including a mechanical bull, live music, a street dance and more.

For more information, contact Visit Claremore at 918-341-8688 or visit them online at

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