J.W. Hart knows he doesn’t have a choice.
If he and his organizing committee stand a chance of drawing lots of fans to their annual Professional Bull Riders show in Decatur year after year, they continually must come up with exceptional ideas.
They’ve done that very well. They’ve given away homes to wounded military veterans. They’ve been generous to local charities. They’ve featured Bushwacker, the three-time PBR World Champion Bull. Last year, they conducted a match between PBR world champion J.B. Mauney and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association kingpin J.W. Harris.
“We’re in rodeo and bull riding central,” Hart said of the North Texas area. “Fans around here know that if ‘I’m busy and I don’t make the rodeo tonight, I can go tomorrow night or next week.’ So, we try to make our event very different. When we have something, it ain’t something you can see next week.”
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This weekend, Hart, 40, a former PBR World Finals average winner, is among eight PBR Ring of Honor members who have opted to come out of retirement to compete for a $160,000 winner-take-all prize at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge. The show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Wise County Sheriff’s Posse Arena.
Two-time world champions Chris Shivers and Justin McBride, 1997 world champion Michael Gaffney and 1992 world champion Cody Custer also are among the contestants.
“I think we’ve outdone ourselves,” said Hart, who is conducting the show in Decatur for the 12th consecutive year. “I don’t know if eight guys of this magnitude will ever come together again out of retirement to make one shot at this kind of money.”
The competition is called “Unfinished Business” and it will be held in conjunction with the traditional PBR BlueDEF Velocity Tour show in Decatur, which features current world title contenders.
Fans are responding. The organizing committee has had to increase the seating capacity at the Wise County Fairgrounds Arena from around 3,500 to 7,000.
Hart said fans who once showed up at PBR events in groups are reuniting to attend this weekend’s show in Decatur like they did 10, 15 and 20 years ago when high-profile riders such as himself, Custer, Gaffney and Shivers were in their heydays.
“These are people who haven’t seen each other in 10 or 12 years, but when this came up, they all went to contacting each other,” Hart said. “They’re all making plans to meet in Decatur and get together like they did in the mid-1990s.”
Fans can watch the Decatur show on a $29.95 pay-per-view arrangement, and the proceeds will go to charity, Hart said. For more information, visit pbr.com.
Vieira riding tough
During the past weekend, the PBR’s top riders were in Las Vegas to compete in the Last Cowboy Standing, which was part of the association’s Built Ford Tough Series. Joao Ricardo Vieira, a Brazilian who lives in Decatur, clinched the title and earned $180,000.
The Las Vegas tour stop was the PBR’s second show of the year that was classified as a major event. The first was the Feb. 28 Iron Cowboy VI at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium. Vieira also won that show and earned $194,833.
After winning in Las Vegas last weekend, Vieira’s 2015 earnings are $492,650. He is ranked No. 1 in the 2105 world standings with 3,505 points, 1,002.5 ahead of No. 2-ranked Matt Triplett.