Manuel Souza is not one to miss an opportunity, even if he’s just passing through town.
“I’ve been putting on rodeos for 12 or 13 years,” he said. “I was driving through Tonopah, and I’m always thinking about different places to put on rodeos. I talked to some people, they sent me some pictures of the arena, and one thing led to another.”
The result is the Town of Tonopah Rodeo, presented by the town and Souza’s Bucking Bulls, which returns July 13-14.
“There hadn’t been a rodeo in town for 25 years, and this will be our fourth this year,” Souza said. “We’ve had great crowds, Saturday night especially. Now the town gets behind it and helps publicize it.
“Outside of Reno and the PBR in Las Vegas, the rest of rodeo in Nevada was dying. I feel like we’ve done a great job at reviving it with a lot of hard work.”
This year’s edition brings with it a change in format.
“We went to two days last year and had Sunday afternoon events,” Souza said. “But at two in the afternoon it’s like an oven out there. This year we’re going to a Friday-Saturday format and doing all kids’ things Friday night. We decided to break it out and get more kids to participate.”
Those kids’ events will include mini bucking horses, a wild pony race, steers and mutton busting. “Mini bucking horses have been a big hit,” Souza noted.
After the kids’ events Friday, there will be a street dance at the Tonopah Brewing Company from 9 p.m. to midnight.
“The Tonopah brewery, the Mizpah Hotel, those guys have been great to us,” Souza said.
The Mizpah will be the site of an after-party from 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday. That will follow what promises to be a fun night of rodeo.
“There’s going to be some great team roping, bull riding and wild bronc riding on Saturday night,” Souza said. “We’ve got local guys riding. People love it when local guys ride.”
Those local guys will be joined by a few out-of-towners.
“We try and draw people from all over,” Souza said. “We have guys coming from Yerington, Fallon, Carson City. We’ve got bull riders coming from two or three different states. If we get 12, 14, 16 bull riders in Tonopah, we’re pretty happy.”
In return, Souza hopes to make Tonopah happy as well.
“I like Tonopah. I want good things for Tonopah. I want everybody to understand that’s why we put on shows,” he said. “It’s about making a living, of course, but we want everybody to come out and have a good time.”
One piece of evidence for that is exactly how much effort Souza puts into the event.
“It’s a lot of work, and it’s 500 and some miles from where I live and 410 miles from my ranch,” he said. “But people in the town office have embraced the event, and without local businesses in Tonopah and Nye County, we couldn’t do it.”
“We’re able to get the local people involved. I love to see people coming out and enjoying the western way of life. If kids can go out and learn how to rope and learn to ride a horse, that’s better than sitting in front of a game all day.”
Support from local people has played a big role in the event’s success, and Souza was especially appreciative of the efforts of Becky Braska of Tonopah Public Utilities. “We gave her a buckle for town all-star,” he said. “There are some really sweet people in Tonopah.”
Just about the only thing Souza has an issue with in the town is the lack of a hospital, a hot topic in Tonopah but also one that could be relevant to an event that carries injury risks.
“As a businessman coming to Tonopah, I really think Tonopah needs a hospital,” he said.
But otherwise, Souza expresses genuine enthusiasm for bringing the rodeo to town, and the town showed support for the event. Minutes from the Tonopah Town Board meetings show Souza received room tax grant funds of $5,353 to advertise and promote Tonopah and the rodeo. This is an increase from the $4,650 he received in 2017 but down from the $6,000 he received in 2016.
In seeking the funds, Souza told the board he advertises Tonopah at every rodeo he holds, making it less about promoting Tonopah in Tonopah than it is about promoting Tonopah in other places. He also said the numbers show hotel rooms, gas stations, grocery stores and other local merchants have seen an increase in revenues generated by the additional visitors in town for the rodeo. The board then voted 4-0 on May 23 to grant Souza’s request for the room tax grant funds.
Tickets for the rodeo are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate, with kids eight and under free. One ticket is good for admission for both nights. Gates open at 5 p.m., with the show starting at 6:30 p.m.
Opportunities for participation and sponsorship are still available. For more information, visit Souza’s Bucking Bulls on Facebook, souzasbuckingbulls.com or call Souza at 209-347-7305.
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes