The competitors sing the national anthem at the Rodeo by the Reef
The competitors sing the national anthem at the Rodeo by the Reef Tamera Francis

A bucking good time

Saturday saw 2500 people descend on Bowen from far and wide for the inaugural Rodeo by the Reef, which saw 85 competitors vying for cash prizes and bragging rights.

Local and international riders competed in a series of events including horse barrel racing, bronco and bull riding, Mayor Andrew Willcox said "big riders come from all over the world and we're expecting big things from local boy Beau Willis.”

Pre rodeo entertainments was provided by Troy Kemp and his band, who had made the last minute dash up north from Tamworth after the Country Music Festival.

When the opportunity came up to play at the rodeo Troy grabbed it with both hands after previously falling in love with the town on a previous holiday.

"It was tough playing at 6pm, but by the end of it the crowds were up stomping their feet in the dirt and having a good time.”

The rest of the band didn't know where Bowen was before the opportunity came up and now we, "love it and will be coming back for little sneaky holidays.”

Mayor Andrew Willcox was very happy with how the event came together he said "I don't think it gets any better than this.”

The event came together in a collaboration between Whitsunday Regional Council, private enterprise and Tourism Whitsunday, and was funded through local, state and federal government.

"What I'm really looking forward to tonight is to see Beau Willis local boy win the open bull ride,” Mayor Willcox said and that he did taking out first place in the open bull ride.

Locals took out the majority of top honours Stephen Delacourt took out first place in the novice bull ride, Jordan Iker won the saddlebronc, Kaelan Jones came first in the bareback competition, Emma Hanrahan placed first in the ladies barrel race, Lane Hanush and Wyatt Milgate tied in the Juvenile 14-under 18 bull ride and Tyler Koulouvi won the under 18 junior barrel race.

Rodeo fashion had tourists from as far away as Canada dress up as cowboys and girls "It's interesting we've got alot of real cowboys and we have alot of pretend cowboys in the stand,” Mayor Willcox said.

Everyone made an effort in dressing up and whilst Mayor Willcox admitted that he was a fashion disaster on the night and that fashion was not his strong suit everyone dressed to impress, "It's a good thing for our town some new hats and cowboy shirts,” he said.

The event showcased the hidden gem that is Bowen and provided an extra boost to the economy, with plenty to do from exploring the pristine beaches to enjoying a beverage at the iconic Grand View Hotel.

Good news for Whitsunday locals is that Mayor Willcox is wanting to host an annual event and seen as the Clipper race happens every second year he envisions "hitching it onto something else,” in those years the Yacht race does not visit the region.