GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – For the first time since 2018, professional bull riding has returned to Greenville for a two-night event at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
“We’re just really excited to welcome them back,” said Bon Secours Wellness Arena General Manager Beth Paul. “It’s something I think that the casual fan doesn’t get to see very often, so I think the novelty of it is really exciting for people.”
45 of the world’s best bull riders descended on the Upstate on Friday, January 23 for the first round of the Greenville Invitational. It’s part of the Professional Bull Riders Pendleton Whiskey Velocity Tour, with Greenville serving as the second stop in 2021.
“It’s an experience like no other….It’s a concert with a bull ride, really,” said Robert Simpson, general manager of the tour.
The riders compete in two rounds on Friday and Saturday night, with the winner securing a spot on the ‘Unleash the Beast’ circuit to compete against the elite of the elite in the sport. And while the bulls and the riders are the most important aspects, there would be no event without one key ingredient: dirt.
1.5 million pounds of dirt is needed to put on the show, with truckloads delivering the 600 yards of product during the week of the event. And it’s all purchased locally.
”We have an actual dirt contractor that goes and finds the dirt, because it has to be the perfect dirt for bucks and bulls,” said Simpson. “We spread it as they bring it in, and then they haul it back out, put it back in the field and we’re done with it.”
Simpson added that Greenville is one of the tour’s most coveted locations due to its success back in 2018. Although schedules conflicting with PBR’s return to the Upstate over the last few years, they’re excited to bring the spectacle back to the area.
A limited capacity audience was present on Friday as the arena implements new COVID protocols. But despite the lack of normally packed crowd, the riders took notice of the difference that a passionate fan base can make.
“I went to a few events where there [were] no fans, and it’s like you can hear a cricket in the background, so just having some people out there screaming for you definitely brings more energy to the building and makes the bull riding that much better,” said Cody Casper, who won the first round of the Greenville Invitational Friday.
”When you give them a product to cheer for and you see a great bull ride or you see a great buck-off, they’re going to get excited,” Simpson added.
With another successful weekend of bull riding, Greenville just might be a consistent stop on tour for years to come.