Eugene Pro Rodeo: 'Everyone you're going to see here is a professional athlete'

      EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene Pro Rodeo is back at the Oregon Horse Center for its 23rd season, running through the Fourth of July weekend.

      It takes organizers about 9 months to put together the event, which showcases a lifetime of hard work and training form cowboys and cowgirls.

      Frank Bocci, director of the 2014 Eugene Pro Rodeo calls the event "Cowboy Christmas", because the over 200 contestants love hearing the hundreds of fans cheering from the stands.

      "Some of these cowboys can compete in as many as 11 rodeos in one weekend," said Bocci.

      "Before every performance, it's game time. I guess for me what goes through my head is I'm doing what I love and it's dream living," said bullfighter Ryan Wilson.

      Wilson says the rodeo lifestyle is how many of the competitors pay their bills.

      "Everyone you're going to see here is a professional athlete. They make their living going up and down the rodeo, and a lot of hours at the gym," said Wilson.

      The rodeo has several events through the day, each capped by a fireworks display. Bocci said Saturday's theme is "Tough Enough To Wear Pink". Fans wear pink to support breast cancer research and a percentage of the ticket sales goes to the Cascade Health Foundation.

      Bocci said he hopes the community can find the same connection to the rodeo felt by those out in the arena.

      "My dad used to take me there to see guys like Mac Berry bullfighting and stuff, and I just love the animals. They're majestic, they're dignified, they're powerful animals and athletic and it's great to be around them," said Bocci.