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Brothers realize dream to put on rodeo


Barbara Rose let her sons Chip and Randy Ridgely grow up to be cowboys, and on Sunday the Cooksville farm boys will thank her as they put on Howard County's first rodeo.

Mrs. Rose died in June of cancer at 46. Starting at noon on Mother's Day at the county fairgrounds in West Friendship, the brothers will dedicate Bull Blast '95 to her.

The two Glenelg High School graduates also hope to realize something else with their bucking bulls, country and western music, pit beef, rodeo clowns' rope tricks and even a "mutton busting" involving children trying to ride sheep.

If they can fill the 2,000 bleacher seats that they have spent the past three days constructing around a temporary rodeo ring, they hope to take a big step toward building the state's first permanent rodeo arena.

Chip, 29, and Randy, 27, are both bull riders, following a grueling schedule of competition along the East Coast and periodically at big Western rodeos. While bull riding is the brothers' main event, Randy also wrestles steers and spent last weekend taking a class for aspiring saddle-bronc riders.

Their mother didn't just allow them to put themselves in harm's way. She encouraged it.

When Chip was 14 and in Timonium showing steers at the state fair, she took him to a rodeo nearby. He immediately took to the sport -- thanks to Mrs. Rose.

"The first year I wanted to go, she actually gave me a car and a gas credit card," he said. That Chevrolet Chevette and Sunoco card got him through a summer of building arenas, driving trucks and tending livestock for Dave Martin Championship Rodeo Co. in Gettysburg, Pa.

"After that, I had to go on the road full time," Chip said.

A few years later, his brother decided to join him.

This Sunday, Chip will be talking instead of riding. His second profession on the rodeo circuit is announcing. Being an emcee for the event is no giant leap for Chip, who with his dark sunglasses resembles Hollywood's late James Dean in a Stetson.

The brothers also will put their own stock of Cooksville rodeo bulls, bred by their Rockin R Rodeo Co., to the test. Their bulls will be joined by some of the "meanest beasts in the East," according to Rockin R's promotional material. The animals will be shipped to West Friendship from four rodeo companies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

And some of the East Coast's best bull riders will be competing, Chip says, citing Clinton Cessna of Clearville, Pa., a six-time American Professional Rodeo Association bull-riding champion, and Troy Rowen, of Paulsboro, N.J., a three-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association champion bull-rider.

Among the challengers will be Randy, who has won a string of rodeo honors in his five-year career. Most recently, his bull riding earned him the title of 1994 Rookie of the Year for the northeastern states' circuit of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Chip estimates that Sunday's rodeo will cost between $12,000 and $16,000 and could turn a small profit if all 2,000 seats are filled.

More important to the Ridgelys than profit, however, is convincing county residents and potential financial backers that there's enough interest in the area to support their plans for an arena on Route 97.

Chip said he hopes to have an indoor facility, with from 3,000 to 5,000 seats, up and running next year. The nearest rodeo arena, he says, is the Cowtown Rodeo Co. arena in New Jersey, and there are plenty of rodeo fans in between.

Advance admission to Sunday's rodeo is $8 for adults, $5 for children 5 to 9 and free for younger children. Advance tickets can be purchased through tomorrow at Lee's Market in Lisbon, Southern States Cooperative supply stores in Woodbine and Sykesville, NationsBank in West Friendship, Lucas McCain's Saloon in Frederick, and Carol's Western Apparel in Laurel and Glen Burnie.

Admission at the gate will be $10 for adults and $6 for children 5 to 9.

For the Ridgelys, the excitement of preparing for this weekend's event doesn't quite measure up to the thrill of a one-handed ride on the back of a 2,000-pound beast.

Tomorrow, at the height of preparations, the two cowboys will hop into a chartered single-engine plane and fly to Lewisburg, W.Va., to compete in another rodeo.

Why fly to another rodeo in the midst of their rodeo venture here?

"It's too long a drive," said Randy.

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