Looking from Route 30, the bustle at Westmoreland Shopping Center in Hempfield this week seemed normal.
But tucked away in a parking lot at the back of the mall was more than 1,000 tons of dirt surrounded by a dozen 50-foot standing bleachers.
The chirping of two compact loaders could be heard as workers shaped the land into a rectangle, setting the stage for a rodeo that will take over the parking lot this weekend.
The Pro Bulls & Barrels Rodeo and Concert is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, the first event of its kind hosted by Live! Casino Pittsburgh.
“It’s really cool to watch, especially if you’ve never seen it,” said Union County-based Rafter Z Rodeo owner Shawn Zrowka, who was hired for the event. “A lot of times when we have these events, people (say), ‘Well, I’m not a rodeo fan.’ You don’t have to be a rodeo fan to come and have fun.
The event – which costs the casino around $125,000 to organize – will feature professionals in bull riding, barrel racing, rope tricks and rodeo clowns. Food trucks, as well as stations from Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen + Bar and Sports & Social Steel City from the casino, will be on site. A children’s corner will feature face painting, a balloon artist and more.
A concert is also scheduled for Saturday, featuring The Hobbs Sisters and Grammy-nominated country singer David Nail.
“We pride ourselves on being an entertainment event center, not a casino,” said Sean Sullivan, Live’s Chief Executive Officer. “That’s why we have PBR. That’s why we build the event center for concerts and other things. It’s an extension of that, just like the summer festival which comes on July 16th, just like the car show on August 14th.
First announced in April, the event took weeks of planning to ensure the 20,000 square foot rodeo and concert hall was properly constructed.
In all, 40 dirt tri-axles were hauled from The Yard, a Unity-based landscaping company. A 52ft tractor-trailer hauled the arena, which consists of a fence and an area where the bulls will be housed before being led to one of six bucking chutes.
The arena takes four workers as much as five hours to assemble.
Forty bulls and 30 horses are brought from all over the country. They will spend hours at night at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds.
“They go to run their errand, they get back in the truck and then they spend the night at the fairgrounds,” Sullivan said. “We don’t want animals here, people near them, all that stuff. There, in the fairgrounds, they can relax.
The event will attract dozens of runners to the region, including artists from Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil and Peru.
“What’s cool is just the hours of work to put it together, starting with a blank slate and working your way in,” Zrowka said. “When you come here on Saturday (with) thousands of people and food trucks and employees and staff, when you watch people from all over the world to come to Greensburg, when you really watch the mass, it’s a really cool thing how much everyone travels to come to this event.”
The rodeo takes place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Authorities are expecting around 2,000 people on Saturday. Of that number, 1,000 are expected at the concert, which begins at 8 p.m. Sunday’s rodeo could attract up to 1,500 people.
Both days will include an award ceremony for the runners. The winners will win a cash prize, a trophy and a belt buckle.
Crews will begin cleaning on Sunday evening. This will last until approximately noon Monday.
Tickets can be purchased online at https://pittsburgh.livecasinohotel.com/rodeo or at the door.
“It’s not a typical rodeo. … There’s a lot of good music, a lot of energy, an involved crowd,” Zrowka said.