Screaming spectators ran for the exits, some atop the metal bleachers and a few to the outer regions of the rodeo grounds within looking distance, as a 2,500-pound bull named Whirlwind jumped over a five-foot tall fence and into the east grandstand area Friday at the Fort Dalles Days “Rough and Wild” Rodeo.
After a 10- to 15-minute delay, Whirlwind, who tried to jump into some pens behind grandstands by the snack bar, ended up being retrieved by hired pickup men and placed back in his designated area.
Local resident and rodeo spectator, Jessica Holt, 10, gave her thoughts on the stressful ordeal.
“I was sitting in the front row real close to the fence about 20-feet away when the bull jumped out,” said Holt. “Just before that moment, I was wondering what would happen if a bull jumped over a fence. It had real big horns and I felt kind of scared. I thought that maybe it would climb up into the bleachers. I heard somebody say that he was a nice bull though and he wouldn’t ever try to hurt anyone.”
There were no injuries sustained by either the animal or spectators, NPRA Board Member Jake Grossmiller said.
“All he got to was the fence, so the damage was minimal,” said Grossmiller.
Thursday night, a male streaker ran into the arena during a barrel-racing event, but that was small potatoes compared to what transpired Friday at Milt Tumilson Arena.
On a night where Murphy’s Law ruled, there were plenty of other incidents that upstaged the show, including a scoreboard operator no-show, an arena blackout, and two medical situations – one for a bull and another for a rodeo fan and several delays to the action.
“Last night, I call it the rodeo from hell,” Grossmiller added. “It started off bad and just got worse and worse and worse. I hope that everything bad that could have happened happened last night.”
Luckily there was a calming influence coming from the loudspeaker.
“I just want to thank our announcer Chad Nicholson and rodeo clown Frankie Smith,” Grossmiller said. “They handled it well with the crowd. They are professionals and they did a beautiful job.”
In terms of fixing the blackout, rodeo sponsor out of The Dalles, Hire Electric, had a few workers make a trip back to the offices to find some replacement fuses. After a delay, the workers returned to replace some fuses and the lights returned.
During this time, a rodeo fan needed medical assistance for a heart issue, so medical personnel attended to the man.
This provided a bit of a problem for rodeo administrators, as the event cannot go on without the availability of an EMT and an ambulance.
“Fortunately we had a couple of EMTs and crash bag before our replacement ambulance got there. We would have been able to continue, but we were still dealing with the lighting issue,” Grossmiller said.
The barrel racing went on without a hitch and then came the fan favorite, bull riding.
After two bulls had finished bucking, Austin Wright, from Gig Harbor, Wash. got aboard Mile High.
Wright hit the dirt for no score, but Mile High kept going around the arena in a mad sprint, bucking and kicking, then he sustained a broken left rear leg.
It took about a half hour for a group of about 50 local cowboys to load him into a trailer.
Local veterinarian Wally Wolfe was treating him for the injury.
The bull’s status is unknown at this time.