The second edition of the Ty Pozzobon Invitational PBR bull riding extravaganza goes this Saturday at the Nicola Valley Rodeo Grounds. It promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s hugely successful inaugural event which played to a sellout crowd of over 3,000 wildly enthusiastic rodeo fans.

“We’ve got 30 of the top bull riders in the world coming, and some of the best stock from both sides of the border,” said Merritt’s own Ty Pozzobon, who at the age of 22 is one of the rising young stars of the exciting, thrills-and-spills sport.

This year’s Ty Pozzobon Invitational features a who’s who of bull riding stars, including no fewer than six cowboys from the 2014 Built Ford Tough Series and an even dozen who have attended the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.

Heading up the list is Matt Triplett from Columbia Falls, Montana — currently the seventh-ranked bull rider in the world — along with Scott Schiffner from Strathmore, Alberta, a PBR Canada champion, three-time World finalist and 11-time Calgary Stampede competitor.

Last year’s Ty Pozzobon Invitational champion, colourful Chase Outlaw from Hamburg, Arkansas, will be back to defend his title.

Topping the list of bulls performing this weekend is contractor Vern Franklin’s Team Paige.

“I’ve scored 90 on him twice,” said Pozzobon, “including last year at the Calgary Stampede.”

Other notable bulls that will be making an appearance on Saturday are Franklin’s Bottoms Up (92 for Chase Outlaw at last year’s Invitational), Prescott’s True Blood (scored 91.5 in Ponoka this spring), Wild Hogg’s 2 Dark 2 C (91) and Girletz’s Finkle’s Dog (91.5 at the 2013 Calgary Stampede).

In addition to the cowboy-versus-mountain-of-beef action in the arena, this year’s event will once again feature spectacular pyrotechnics and bull fighters, a 50/50 draw and a beer garden.

New additions to the 2014 event include a mutton-bustin’ competition for the youngsters at one of the intermissions, instant replays of all the great rides on a giant jumbotron, and a rip-roaring ‘after-party’ at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (courtesy of the Merritt Centennials hockey club) where many of the event’s competitors will be on hand to meet and greet the public.

There will be a free shuttle from the Travelodge and from the arena to the rodeo grounds before the event, and a free shuttle after the show to both the arena and to the Travelodge.

The format for the Ty Pozzobon Invitational will see all 30 bull riders compete once each in the long-go. The top-10 scorers will then duke it out in a short-go (championship round) for a share of over $15,000 in prize money.

Pozzobon comes into his own Invitational riding sky high — both literally and figuratively. Two weekends ago, in Cloverdale, he was the only cowboy to successfully ride all three of his bulls in picking up a second and two third-place finishes, good for over $9,000 in earnings. His final ride, on a bull called Bring Sexy Back, earned him a score of 89.5, his highest of the season.

“He’s one of the best buckin’ bulls in Canada right now,” says Pozzobon. “He’s only been ridden twice.”

Last weekend, at the Cody Snyder Invitational in Swift Current, Sask., Pozzobon rode Spaghetti Slinger to a score of 86 and a tie for first place in the long-go.

Pozzobon told a reporter recently that he never really imagined himself hosting a PBR event with his own name attached to it, and he never imagined it being an annual event.

When he held the Ty Pozzobon Invitational last year, the young cowboy thought he might attract 1,000 people — mostly family, friends and local fans.

Instead, the 2013 event pulled in three times that number, with spectators coming from all over B.C., from Alberta and even from south of the line.

“It was unreal; it was nuts,” said Pozzobon of last year’s spectacular success.

Pozzobon is delighted to be able to bring the best of his sport back to his hometown.

“The community has always been so supportive of me ever since I started competing way back in Little Britches events,” he said.

Tickets for the Ty Pozzobon Invitational are on sale locally at Purity Feed. They will also be available at the gate on Saturday.