As the largest county fair in the state of Virginia, the Prince William County Fair will have an abundance of attractions, from a tractor pull to a petting zoo to a demolition derby. But one event stands out as the quintessential fair experience: bull riding.
The sport of bull riding challenges riders to stay mounted on a bucking bull for eight seconds. For all nine days of the fair, a mechanical bull will be available for those who want to experience the feeling. On the last day of the fair, a professional cowboy will ride a real bull for a rapt audience.
Bull Ride Mania, the rodeo company hosting the event, was created almost 50 years ago and was purchased by Donna Kennard in 2019. She produces the rodeo’s events with the help of her two daughters and two sons, who work for the family business.
“I really do enjoy bringing the sport of rodeo to people that don’t necessarily know what it is. I’m big on education and teaching people what rodeo is and how we care for both the rodeo athletes and animals. I also love to watch the crowd and see how what we spent time producing is entertaining people,” Kennard says.
While rodeos are popular attractions across the country, especially at county fairs, Bull Ride Mania stands out in one way — it might feature your neighbor. Because Bull Ride Mania is an open rodeo company, riders don’t have to join an association to compete, as some rodeo events require. Still, Kennard ensures that the rider is experienced.
“These bulls are not pets or playthings. They are serious animals, and you need to know what you’re doing to be able to do it. That’s why most of the people that follow our tour have at least one year’s experience,” Kennard says.
The cowboy for the Prince William County Fair, Nick Mest, 23, from Lakewood, New York, has been riding for more than three years now. He has won numerous awards, which he credits to his pre-rodeo routine.
“Once I get my stuff ready, I go find my bull and picture myself riding him in my head over and over again. I try to not think about anything negative or think too much about riding bulls at all because that gets me in trouble. Your body knows what to do, and you got to let your body just react,” Mest says.
Although Mest owns a welding business, he loves the adventure of bull riding.
“I love the freedom I get from it. It’s out of the ordinary. I can travel across the country and see things that people who work a 9 to 5 don’t get to see, and I get to travel up and down the road with some of the best guys you could ever meet. It’s awesome,” Mest says.
Prince William County Fair: Aug. 12–20, 10624 Dumfries Rd., Manassas