Rodeo bullfighting comes to Craig

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Bullfighting is coming to Craig but don't pick up the phone and start calling the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals just yet.

The bullfighting that will be on display at the Moffat County Fairgrounds this week and at the Ride 'n' Tie rodeo the first weekend in July is called American Freestyle Bullfighting, which doesn't involve injury to bulls.

The local expert in AFB is Dave O'Mailia.

"It's a growing sport in rodeo," he said. "If people haven't heard about it yet, they will soon."

The former bull rider has dreamed about owning bulls and helping others learn about rodeo. This summer both dreams will come true.

The O'Mailias are hosting the Yampa Valley Bull Riding and Bullfighting School Tuesday through Thursday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. The O'Mailias are putting the school on with the help of Bill Bass, a professional bullfighter, Mike Lee the 2004 Professional Bull Riders world champion, Dennis Johnson, a PBR bullfighter, and the Professional Bull Riders outreach ministry.

"We would like to invite the community out to the school," Kaley O'Mailia said.

"There will be quite a few big names in bull riding and bullfighting in Craig this week and they'll be available for a meet and greet every night at the fairgrounds."

Wednesday there will be a jackpot bull riding competition, and Bill Bass will put on a bullfighting performance.

At its simplest, freestyle bullfighting is a 70-second head-to-head athletic competition, Kaley said. The bullfighter's main objective is to out-maneuver a bull as it charges. The fighter gets points for things like how close he came and the moves he put on the bull.

For a better idea of what a bullfighter faces, there are pictures on Bass's Web site, www.catchbillbass.com. Those shots show him jumping over a bull, dodging a charging bull and getting sent in the air by a bull.

The school didn't have any bullfighters signed up yet, but Kaley said the registration was open until today. The bull-riding portion of the school had seven students signed up. Registered riders are from as far away as Maine and Alabama.

Bullfighting bulls aren't bred to buck someone off their back, they are trained specifically for their sport.

O'Mailia purchased nine bulls this spring for the purpose of bullfighting.

They act and look different than the bulls that cowboys attempt to ride for eight seconds.

"A bull charging at you can be just as intimidating," O'Mailia said.

The O'Mailia Fighting Bulls will be the stock at a rodeo in Alamosa this weekend. They also will be the stock for the first bullfighting competition at the Ride 'n' Tie Rodeo.

For more information on the school or the O'Mailia Fighting Bulls call 824-9641.

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