Wild West in Westminster

The Baltimore Sun

Announcer Chip Ridgely bellowed to the packed house at a Saturday night Battle of the Beast bull-riding competition, prompting screams of support from the packed house of rodeo fans.

The ensuing ride, one of many that evening, was a spectacle to behold. The rider stayed on through the eight-second buzzer indicating that he had scored points, and the crowd erupted again as he was bucked off.

Battle of the Beast contests, which are sponsored by the J Bar W Ranch, take place from June through September on the first and third Saturdays of the month, with the final summer event held on the first Saturday in September at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster. Winter events are held every Saturday night from January through March.

Be prepared to wince as rider after tough rider is thrown from the bulls, only to get up with a smile, eager to do it again.

Attendees are treated not only to a wild night of bull-riding, but also to activities and comedic banter between Ridgely and the rodeo clown.

Among the more dangerous activities at the Battle of the Beast is the "Ring of Fear."

Four volunteers from the crowd get in the ring, where two circles no more than 6 feet wide have been marked on the dirt in orange spray-paint.

The volunteers are divided into two teams, and a bull is released into the ring. The sides compete to see who can get the bull to stand in their circle -- with a team member -- the most times. When the timer goes off, the winners take home prize money.

The doors open at 5 p.m., and the festivities begin at 7 p.m. Early arrivals can make sure they get a good seat on the bleachers lining the stadium.

Another crowd-pleaser is the children's Mutton Bustin' contest.

Mutton busters, who must weigh less than 50 pounds, attempt to ride sheep, clutching the fleece of their mounts for support. The sheep is released inside the ring, and the mutton buster must hold on for six seconds.

The youngster with the highest score at the end of the competition wins a $25 gift certificate to spend at the Cowboy Stuff store in Frederick.

Tickets to the Battle of the Beast are $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children younger than 6. For more information, visit the J Bar W Ranch Web site at www.jbarwranch.com.

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