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Southeast States Bull Riders tour hits Manatee County Fairgrounds

PALMETTO -- It’s just another day at the office.

That’s the attitude BJ Carter and other riders had Friday night at the Southeast States Bull Riders Tour Championship at the Manatee Fairgrounds.

“The office is just a bit bigger here,” said Carter, 28, of Parrish, who has been riding since he was 6 years old.

The top 30 riders from the tour’s past season participated Friday and are set to compete again today in the finals.

This is the first time the tour championship has been held in Manatee.

“I’m from Texas, this is a taste of home,” said Jeff Sauntry, 41. “Manatee County has a lot of diversity. It’s a great way to get the community together.”

Hundreds came to support the riders and bulls, including Carter’s friends and family. Although he might not have noticed them right away.

“When you get on (the bull), you don’t hear anything,” until it’s over, Carter said.

His “co-workers” agree.

“There is nothing like that feeling you get,” said Ricky Ringer, 33, who came from the South Florida town of Davie to compete.

“It’s just work, that’s all I do.”

One of the advantages of having the competition on his home turf, Carter said, is that he gets to clear up some of his friends’ misconceptions about the sport.

“Everyone has heard of bull riding and they think it’s just riding the bull. These animals are athletes,” Carter said.

Riders from around the world compete, too, some traveling from as far as Brazil.

Even with that international feel, there still is a true feeling of Americana associated with bull riding.

“Cowboys are one of the last American traditions,” said SSBR president Byron McIntosh, who encourages families to come out today.

“It’s the best two and a half hours you’ll spend.”