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California Shootouts, now under the direction of Dynamite Productions, is flourishing with record attendance. –Photo by Deb Mann

By Julie Mankin
Special To Ropers Sports News

Production of big team roping events takes plenty of blood, sweat and tears, plus creative brainstorming, project management, and trouble-shooting savvy. That doesn’t even include the need for all that equipment, hundreds of head of cattle, talented staff, effective advertising… this list has no end. 

It’s no wonder that, 19 months ago, David S. Brown was looking to slow down, after decades of producing great trailer ropings, jackpots and World Series events on the West Coast. As it happened, Arizona-based Dynamite Productions was looking to expand.

“We’ve always been out to put on first-class, roper-focused events in Arizona,” said Dynamite co-owner Daren Peterson. “The World Series are the best ropings in America, so becoming a World Series producer was our next objective after reinventing Dynamite Arena.”

But it’s no easy task for an outsider to come into a new market. When Peterson and partner Bryan Beaver of Dynamite took the reins in August 2016, they brought their Dynamite brand to the “CalShootouts” while keeping all the dates and locations. 

Peterson helms on-site production and hails from Cave Creek Ariz., where he manages the popular “Title Fights” World Series qualifiers at the iconic Dynamite Arena, plus hundreds of weekly jackpots each winter. He was facing a 2017 schedule that included ropings in King City, Porterville, Sanger, Livermore, Salinas, Morgan Hill and Paso Robles, Calif., as well as the annual World Series qualifiers in June in Reno, held in conjunction with Wrangler BFI Week.

Peterson had originally hired a special manager for the California events, but this season has been attending every event in person. He’ll continue to do that, as a way to show ropers the extent of Dynamite’s commitment to the Shootouts. It took a few months before it was clear that California’s ropers had given him a chance – and approved.

“Last year was the wettest winter we’ve had in California in a long time,” said cattle contractor Steve Simons. “People couldn’t get their horses legged up, plus the formats were changed to comply with World Series ropings everywhere else, and people weren’t sure at first. Turnouts were down.”

But come 2018, team counts have never been higher. 

“I think these ropings just get better and better, myself,” said 77-year-old rancher Jack Sparrowk, a 4-plus header from Clements who roped at the inaugural Las Vegas World Series Finale. “People around here are used to the formats now. The ropings are first class – they’ve got good cattle and they run them good and they pay good. More people are saving their money now to go to those ropings.”

Peterson said that after the ropings were down a thousand teams in 2017, this year they’ve made up those numbers already – and it’s only March. 

“I just put on ropings,” he said. “I make it fair, and if a steer doesn’t fit the pen, we are not opposed to giving reruns. Our mission is to make this a roper-friendly production. The World Series is known for first-class events and we jumped in and took off running, putting on ropings the way we know how.”

Hosting the higher-numbered ropings first allowed Simons to sort his cattle down for the lower numbers – which was a switch to good-quality cattle from the old, slow cattle the lower-numbered ropers had come to expect at California ropings. If a speedy one ends up not fitting the herd, a re-run is an option. Aside from the good cattle and schedule, in 2018 ropers began to see the same Dynamite brand that is drawing record turnouts in Arizona this season. 

“I think the biggest change is how each roping is such an organized and professional event,” said Simons. “The arenas are set up perfectly, from the banners to the access in and out for ropers. They keep the arena clear and do a fantastic job with arena control. They’re just very professional in how they represent themselves.”

Simons said the arena control helps flagger Billy Butler do his job, while announcer Kelsi Bramwell and office manager Vicky Mounyo are always professional. Toni Machado has been taking entries from California ropers for years, and the chute crew is as good as it gets.

“When I show up with the cattle, they’ve been run through three or four times and have feed and water in less than an hour,” Simons said. “It’s a well-run roping and it raises the standards of what we were used to in California.”

Peterson credits his crew foreman Raul Vega, who’s been with the Dynamite team almost eight years now, and said it’s made a difference to bring his own equipment to facilities that might have some age. 

“We have a truck and a full trailer that stays in California, thanks in part to MyCars.com, so we use all our own chutes, banners, etc., instead of whatever belongs to the venue,” said Peterson. 

The closest California Shootout to 5-Elite header and heeler Ron Hognestad of Hopland has been a four-hour drive, but he said it’s worth it.

“You know the cattle are going to be good, the roping will start on time, and you can expect good flagging,” he said. “Good conditions, and of course they pay great.”

He added that Peterson has tried to bring new venues in as needed and has been matching the ropings to the ropers. California is full of team ropers and they enjoy categories that fit them, he said.

Hognestad mentioned the wild success of the #8 ropings on the West coast – a #8 WSTR roping in King City in January paid nearly $4,500 per man – and said the recent addition of a #14 will really work well in his area.

“I really enjoy this new World Series in Corning,” said Hognestad a vineyard owner and rancher who qualified for the NFR in 1971-72. “It’s about three hours away from me at the casino, and it’s a great roping. I’d like to see them keep going up north – I think they’d get more ropers buying their World Series cards and get them hooked on it.”

Simons said he hasn’t seen a weak link in Dynamite’s production, from arena set-up to quality cattle, and in fact Peterson’s personal strength seems to be catching a problem before it’s really a problem. Case in point – Peterson is moving the 2018 World Series ropings from Fallon this June back to Ironwood Equestrian Center in Reno, because it’s more accessible for ropers keeping their horses at UNR.

“It’s tough to come from the outside into California, but Daren makes everybody feel welcome and he’s approachable,” Simons said. “Plus, Daren works. He’s not like some producers; he gets dirty.”

As for future plans for the California Shootouts, Peterson said “we’ve been able to expand, and we’ve had requests every time we’ve been out there. We added Red Bluff, and we’ll go back there again this year. We’ll add dates if there’s room in the World Series schedule. This summer my wife, Kami, and I plan to hang out in California and get to know everyone better, and maybe rope a little ourselves.”

Dynamite will host more California Shootouts in Porterville this month, in Sanger in April and head to Livermore and Norco in May. For more information, check Ropers Sports News, which has been the official publication of the California Shootouts since the ropings were launched. Online, visit RopersSportsNews.com or Facebook.com/California Shootouts by Dynamite Productions.

King City, Calif.
January 27-28

Results are as follows; payouts are per team:

WSTR #15: $150, no caps

Average: 1. Kyle Davis and Danny Leslie, 38.05, $4,320. 2. Craig Harrison and Casey Awbrey, 38.69, $2,590. 3. Tristan Ruffoni and Chance Ruffoni, 42.23, $1,730.

WSTR #13: $150, no caps

Average: 1. Jose Pantoja and Chris Wooten, 32.99, $5,520. 2. Derrek Hee and Dylan Dishion, 33.38, $3,310. 3. Danny Leslie and Jesse Vasquez, 36.85, $2,210.

WSTR #12: $150, no caps

Average: 1. Jerry Merrell and Mike Monighetti, 38.89, $6,340. 2. CR Wilken and Chad Krainock, 39.24, $4,750. 3. Alex Vigil and Matt Griffith, 39.36, $3,170. 4. Ali Bilkey and Dylan Dishion, 41.15, $1,580.

WSTR #11: $150

Average: 1. Kari Rivera and Jesse Vasquez, 33.96, $6,620. 2. Jack Batey and Joe Robinson, 43.92, $4,970. 3. Auline Harris and Justin Pereira, 45.02, $3,310. 4. Ernest Forsberg and Van Todd, 45.54, $1,660.

#10 WSTR: $150

Short go FT: Ryan Parker and Scott Myers, 7.16, $1,000.

Average: 1. Jose Pantoja and Skip Stansbury, 39.82, $8,890. 2. Cindy Williamson and Marty Williamson, 40.72, $6,350. 3. Weston Hutchings and Pistol Bray, 41.24, $4,830. 4. Pam Wilken and Chad Krainock, 43.11, $3,550. 5. Nathan Wohld and Tommy Hardin, 43.53, $1,780.

WSTR #9: $150

Short go FT: Ken Maler and Devin Lemmones, 9.35, $1,000.

Average: 1. David Walters and Rick Lederer, 36.51, $9,970. 2. Auline Harris and Brant Grisedale, 41.5, $6,950. 3. Blake Pacheco and Jim Petersen, 45.69, $5,130. 4. Pam Wilken and RD Karney, 47.42, $3,620. 5. Edgar Lomeli and Jim Petersen, 48.7, $2,720. 6. Ashley Wilken and Jim Richards, 49.47, $1,810.

WSTR #8: $150

Short go FT: Matt Alger and Randy Pennebaker, 12.58, $1,000.

Average: 1. Justin Webber and Scott Myers, 53.52, $8,720. 2. Matt Alger and Randy Pennebaker, 53.68, $6,230. 3. Troy Hyder and Tim Peltzer, 56.68, $4,740. 4. Edgar Lomeli and JC Castellanos, 33.46, $3,490. 5. Angel Gonzalez and Tyson Porter, 39.54, $1,740.

#8 Buckle Roping: $75

Average: 1. Ryan Bettencourt and Erik Bettencourt, 38.12, $1,250. 2. Angel Gonzalez and Dave Carlson, 38.83, $840.

Mitch Brown observes the singing of the National Anthem by Callie Cordova. –Photo by Deb Mann