Bull riding: Bemidji High School grad riding on home turf in event at Sanford Center
BEMIDJI - Sometimes it's just fun to come back home to where it all started and show how far you've gone in doing what you love to do.
Kyle Johnson, a 2011 Bemidji High School graduate, is back home, where he's one of the bull riders in the Bud Light Bull Riding Challenge this weekend at the Sanford Center.
Four years ago, Johnson started bull riding and won the 2010 Green Bush Bull Riding Championship, a just-for-fun event for local riders sponsored yearly by Keith Wejo.
Johnson and his friend, Brandon Krueger, went to a bull riding school in Sebeka. He has chosen to enter the professional bull riding circuit while Brandon and another Bemidjian, his cousin, Christopher Gilbertson, are team ropers who work in rodeos as headers and heelers.
Team ropers are featured in full rodeos and used to rope a steer; the header turns the steer and the heeler ropes the back feet.
"I started as a team roper in the rodeos but always wanted to do the 'rough stock' end of it," Johnson said Friday. "I like the thrill of it. My parents like that I am doing what I love but don't like the risks. Somebody gets hurt in every event: concussions, broken bones, dislocated joints for example."
Just last year, Johnson bought a hockey helmet to wear during riding because he hit his head too many times. The vest is another piece of equipment that the riders use but it is not an optional piece of equipment.
He finished in the top 10 in the Minnesota Rodeo Association and has ridden with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit. He has traveled to Cheyenne, Wyo., Reno, Nev., and spots in between during the winter bull riding season, which is usually held at indoor venues. Johnson recently was one of the featured riders at Fargodome in Fargo, N.D.
"I've been on the circuit and made a lot of improvements, met lots of players and been far from home," Johnson said. "It's cool to do it on home ground. I grew up ranching and riding horses."
"The bulls we ride are the real deal" Kyle added.
"They come from the National Finals Rodeo, where only the top 15 riders in the world are featured. We are 40 riders and 40 bulls from Meech Bucking Bulls in Sebeka, Mossbrucker Roder in Minot (N.D.) and Chad Burger Bucking Bulls in Mandan (N.D.)."