The second biggest rodeo in the world takes place in Omaha this weekend. Aksarben’s River City Rodeo and Stock Show officially got underway Thursday morning at the CenturyLink Center and it’s bigger than ever.
Crews have been busy all week transforming the arena by hauling in 14.7 tons of dirt, leveled, using GPS, to a 10-inch depth. And, said Knights of Aksarben President Beth Greiner, "We have 17 semi loads of steel to put in all our panels and make it look like it does and about 600 volunteers."
The volunteers will be helping out with traditional events like this weekend's barbecue, in which some 60 people from around the region will be competing. This year, there is one new addition to that area, microbrew tasting.
Greiner said there’s another new element on Sunday, a competition. “You can come down and play foosball and there will be 25 teams competing for a championship trophy."
The main competition, the rodeo itself, is once again produced by the Cervi family of Sterling, Colorado. “The Cervi rodeo company has been part of the Aksarben rodeo since the 1980s,” said pick-up man Chase Cervi.
Back then, he was just a baby. Now, the 26-year-old is key to the operation. His job is to ride into the arena and get the cowboy off a bucking horse, making sure the rider is able to exit safely. But Cervi’s job comes with danger. "You could get kicked or your horse could fall, but it's pretty exciting, an adrenaline rush. I love it.”
Chase and his brother Binion brought 11 horses and three bulls from their ranch. The animals were among those carefully selected by cowboys as the best of the best. It’s a source of pride for the family.
And working with family day in and day out, Cervi said, can present challenges. “Sometimes we have our fights and everybody has that, but in the long run I wouldn't want to do anything else."
The event promises to be bigger and better this year. Their livestock animals are up four-percent over last year and at more than 3,000, the number sets a new record.
They've maximized all available space at the CenturyLink Center, plus at the Hilton Hotel across the street, which Greiner said is a first. There are more than 1,300 exhibitors this year.
She said rodeo tickets and tickets to this weekend’s concerts are going quickly, but there were still some available Thursday. Jake Owen performs Friday night and Diamond Rio performs Saturday night. Tickets can be purchased at the CenturyLink box office or through Ticketmaster.
The animal zone in the convention center area, as well as a children’s play zone on the second floor, are free to the public. Events run through Sunday.