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Feb 16, 2014 12:11 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Tucson Rodeo starts strong

TUCSON - The 89th Fiesta de los Vaqueros, better known as the Tucson Rodeo, started with above average crowds.

Organizers estimated about 5,500 people in the 11,000 seat arena.

Rodeo General Manager Gary Williams said they don't do as well in the opening weekend because some people do not realize it is a 2-weekend event.

"Out of over 600 rodeos in the U.S. and Canada, we're in the top 25," William said. "So if this was a bowl game, this would be the Rose Bowl."

Winners receive a total of about $460,000 in prizes. The biggest winner, the bull riding champion, won about $8,000 last year.

Cowboys and cowgirls are not the only travelling entertainers making a living. Justin Rumford just signed a 3-year deal with the Tucson Rodeo. Williams said he wanted to make sure the 2-time clown of the year returned.

"It's a great job," Rumford said. "It pays amazing. You can go wherever you want to go. You negotiate your own contracts. And all you're really getting paid to do is show up and have fun."

The Rodeo continues Sunday. Fans are encouraged to wear pink for breast cancer awareness.

The Rodeo Parade is Thursday at 9 a.m. with full rodeos the following 4 nights. Ticket sales are up about 18 percent compared to last year, according to Williams.

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