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Professional Bull Riding world championship brings estimated 70K people to Fort Worth

Fort Worth Star-Telegram logoFort Worth Star-Telegram 5/21/2022 James Hartley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Hundreds of bull riding fans gather outside Dickies Arena for Danielle Bradburry’s post-show performance Thursday night following the first day of the Professional Bull Riding World Championship Finals in Fort Worth. © James Hartley/Star-Telegram/TNS Hundreds of bull riding fans gather outside Dickies Arena for Danielle Bradburry’s post-show performance Thursday night following the first day of the Professional Bull Riding World Championship Finals in Fort Worth.

Some of the best rodeo cowboys in the world are in Fort Worth this weekend for the Professional Bull Riding World Finals (dubbed Unleash the Beast), and they’ve brought droves of fans — an estimated 70,000, according to the Fort Worth Sports Commission — with them to swarm Cowtown.

Thursday, the first day of the main events, brought fans to the Stockyards and Dickies Arena, many of them decked out in Wranglers, boots and cowboy hats, to experience the town Where the West Begins. The championship tournament has brought folks to Fort Worth (instead of Las Vegas, where it is usually held) from across Texas and across the country, from Colorado to Brownsville and Los Angeles to North Carolina.

North Carolina is where Brandy and Scott King came from Thursday for the championship finals. It was the first time the couple had been to Fort Worth, and they said they were falling in love with the city because of the Stockyards and the people.

“We haven’t run into a single person who wasn’t kind and welcoming the entire day,” Brandy King said.

For some like Dean and Deb McMullan, the history of the city is what they find most exciting.

The couple came from Iraan, a small town about five and a half hours from Fort Worth, where Dean McMullan works a ranch that’s been in his family for five generations, raising sheep.

In the Fort Worth Stockyards for some food, drinks and shopping Thursday afternoon before the PBR tournament kicked off, Dean McMullan said every time he and his wife visit the city he’s amazed by the history of the Stockyards. His family ranch probably brought livestock through here at one point in time, and that’s something special.

“Today local auction barns are used to sell livestock, then that’s shipped off to wherever the buyer wants them, but used to be everything came through here,” Dean McMullan said. “Right through here.”

Deb McMullan said the traffic in a city can be a pain, but it doesn’t take away from being able to see the best professional bull riders in the world compete in her home state. The couple comes to Fort Worth two to three times a year, usually to see a rodeo competition and to drive a little farther over to Arlington for Rangers and Cowboys games. But this event is special.

While Deb and Dean McMullan were shopping in the Stockyards, the broad sidewalks were filled with a sight that may not seem all that unusual: people in cowboy hats or trucker caps, cowboy boots or work boots. What was different Thursday was how crowded it was on a weekday, and how many people were from out of state or at least a full day’s drive away.

Some had complaints about how many businesses weren’t accepting cash, but most said they were excited to be in the city.

And Fort Worth local Scott Jones said there’s not a better city to have the competition in, in large part due to the preservation of history and the modern cowboy culture that can be found in the city.

“It’s Cowtown,” Jones practically yelled in excitement outside Dickies Arena. “What better place is there for riding bulls than Cowtown? It’s in the name.”

Jones is also excited about the possibility of the championship coming back to Fort Worth.

“The biggest thing is we got this from Vegas, and that’s a big win for our city,” Jones said.

A big part of that win might be the economic impact. The Fort Worth Sports Commission expects the PBR tournament to bring an estimated $30 million to the city.

The tournament hasn’t just brought bull riding to Fort Worth for the weekend, either.

From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Saturday, Dickies Arena is hosting the PBR Cowboy Experience at the Simmons Bank Pavilion, outside the arena. On Friday and Saturday, Flint Rassmussen will be at the pavilion with his show Outside The Barrel from 1 to 2:15 p.m.

And there will be live music at the pavilion, at 10:30 p.m. Friday with Mitchell Tenpenny performing for post-show entertainment, and Warrant playing live before the championship finals go into round six Saturday, with music starting at 6:15 p.m.

Thursday saw Danielle Bradburry and her band performing after the show for a couple hundred bull riding fans as they left the arena.

Other events, like Chris Shivers’ Miniature Bull Riding World Finals at Will Rogers Stadium on Friday and the PBR Cowboy Expo at the Fort Worth Stockyards on Saturday, are free. A full list of events both at and away from Dickies Arena can be found at

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