by Jade Currid
The arena dirt lit up with the acronym BBB outlined in dancing flames and fireworks exploded as larger-than-life bull riders whose silhouettes were accentuated by the elaborate pyrotechnics made their grand entrance onto their stage.
Announcer Luke Kaufman, renowned for writing and singing adrenaline-inducing songs about bull riding, introduced these top rodeo athletes to an eager, frenetic crowd before they made their way back to the chutes, where they would prepare to hop on rank bulls possessing the intensity and fury of a freight train and the fleet-footed and agile nature of cats.
This spectacular action was delivered to the town of Opelika in the form of the area’s first annual Bulls, Bands and Barrels, a brilliant event taking the rodeo world by storm. It is the brainchild of Hunter Price of Ole South Entertainment.
||Right, bull rider Devin Hager wowed the crowd with his 84-point ride. Below, Opelika’s first annual Bulls, Bands and Barrels event Aug. 10, 2013, showcased top-notch rodeo stock.
"I don’t think in the Southeast or pretty much anywhere across the country, unless you go to a PBR event or something like that, you’re going to find the production level you’re going to see at one of these Bulls, Bands and Barrels deals, for sure," Hunter said.
Hunter grew up raising livestock on the family farm, C&H Farms in Opelika, and started raising rodeo stock with his father Randy around 6 years ago.
Hunter developed an interest in the bucking bull industry about 7-10 years ago, his father said.
"That was something he became involved in from the standpoint of flushing cows for embryo transfer to raising his own bucking bulls," Randy said. "That interest fueled over to a producer/production standpoint of putting on different events."
Hunter has produced events everywhere from Texas to venues throughout the Southeast.
|The pickup man is ready to assist rodeo athletes in the bull riding portion of Bulls, Bands and Barrels.
A first-rate, professional event, Bulls, Bands and Barrels showcases top bull riders and barrel racers along with a local band to attract a variety of spectators, provide exciting entertainment, bring a high-caliber event to a venue in a smaller town and allow attendees to get the biggest bang out of their buck.
"Everybody comes for a reason," Hunter said.
Stock contractor Rickey West, a dynamic force in the bucking bull industry, serves as the tour’s stock coordinator.
"He’s got some of the best bulls on the East Coast and probably even further than that," Kaufman said. "He’s got a really good pen of bulls."
Kaufman, who works a lot of events in this part of the country, said that whenever West asks him to appear at an event, he jumps at the opportunity.
||PBR Bull Rider Sean Willingham made an appearance.
Bull rider Devin Hager, who wowed the crowd with his 84-point ride on a powerhouse animal he described as "a good little bull to get on," voiced his support for Bulls, Bands and Barrels and Rickey West.
"This is a good event," he said. "I mean, everything is running very well. Rickey West puts on a good bull riding. Everything is organized and in order."
A major focus of the event is to support a local philanthropy in the community where it is hosted.
"It’s cool when you can have an event like this and get everybody in the community involved," Kaufman said.
Proceeds from the Bulls, Bands and Barrels event benefited Storybook Farms, a non-profit, faith-based ministry dedicated to bringing healing and hope to children facing life challenges through equine therapy.
"I think for the community at large, it was just such a nice event to have," Dena Little, owner and founder of Storybook Farms, said. "It was just really good wholesome family fun and I think that fills a void we have in our community. I appreciate the Price family for stepping up and getting involved with the farm and continuing to better this community."
The Price family has deep-rooted ties with the organization.
"Oline Price, who is Lee County’s Revenue Commissioner, has served on Storybook’s Board of Directors for a number of years, and she is an avid horsewoman herself," Little said. "It’s been a wonderful way for her to get involved in the equine community and help with kids at the same time."
Little went on to describe her collaboration with Hunter on the event.
"This is the first time I’ve worked closely with Hunter and I love his enthusiasm. He just has a zeal for getting things done," she said.
||From left, a rodeo athlete adjusts his spurs before the bull riding portion of Bulls, Bands and Barrels. Brinson James the Entertainer and a young rodeo clown bring onlookers joy through their spirit, enthusiasm and colorful makeup and attire.
Little said the event was a terrific way for people who are not familiar with Storybook Farms’ ministry to become involved and to learn more about it.
She attributes Storybook Farms’ work as a God-thing and stresses how it is both beautiful and remarkable to watch how horses can touch each child at their point of need.
In addition to Kaufman, the event also featured high-profile appearances by professional bull rider Sean Willingham, who is sponsored by Rockstar Energy Drink, and professional rodeo entertainer Brinson James, who also works events for the Professional Bull Riders, Inc.
Kaufman, a native of North Carolina who is also an announcer for Championship Bull Riding, Inc., reminisced about how he obtained his start in music at an early age.
"I actually got started playing music in church," he said. "I played in a choir band. My first time singing in public was at a Cowboy Church."
Kaufman’s latest project in music is his collaboration with fellow artists from his record label, Ledfurd Recurds, which is based in North Carolina, on a compilation CD called "A Family Affair."
Kaufman expressed excitement about having two songs on the CD released on iTunes Oct. 1, 2013.
He attained considerable success the year before when he released the CD, "Beyond The Bunkhouse," on iTunes.
Legacy Brinson James The Entertainer, whose repertoire includes his epic dance moves and trick roping skills, kept the crowd’s energy up with his antics.
"I love my job," Brinson said. "I think it’s one of the best jobs in the world just to go out there and entertain people, do what you love and you get paid, so it’s perfect."
Bulls, Bands and Barrels events are booked across the Southeast for 2014.
The vision for Bulls Bands and Barrels is for it to expand to 12-15 events across the Southeast and incorporate a Finals event by 2015, Randy said.
Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.