TOMBSTONE — This historic old mining town, known for its gunfight re-enactments, 1880s-clad characters and boisterous saloons, has a new attraction.
Robby and Kati Jundt, owners of the Shoot Out Arena in Tombstone, launched their inaugural bull riding competition during the town’s Helldorado Days celebration in 2020. The event kicked off with a youth riding event for 9- through 14-year-olds on mini-bulls the evening of Oct. 16, followed by an adult competition the next night. About 700 spectators filled the Shoot Out’s stands for the mini-bull riding, while the adult competition drew a crowd of 1,200, far surpassing the Jundts’ expectations.
“We weren’t sure how bull riding was going to be received, especially since that was our first show,” said Kati, who handles the venture’s business side. “When the Saturday crowd grew to 1,200, we couldn’t believe it. Our bleacher seats sold out, and it was standing room only at the Shoot Out Arena that night. We were thrilled.”
Robby credits Kati’s business savvy for their early success, as well as tremendous support from Tombstone and surrounding communities.
“Kati finds sponsors, does all the promoting and advertising and comes up with ideas to make the show fun for spectators of all ages,” he said. “We knew there would be a large crowd in town for Helldorado, and hoped some of those people would stop by the Shoot Out for a couple hours of bull riding. Everything worked out well for us. We had a great crowd.”
Tombstone Helldorado Days, held the third weekend in October, is a festival that dates back to 1929. The three-day event celebrates Tombstone’s rich and raucous Old West history. Visitors from all over the country and other parts of the world venture into “the town too tough to die” to experience Tombstone’s street entertainment, unique shopping and western-style saloons. While most of the festivities are centered along Allen Street, the Shoot Out Arena is located off the beaten path at 365 S. Third St., not far from Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park.
The Jundts purchased the Shoot Out in January 2020 and immediately started working on improvements to the property so it would be ready for their debut competition by Helldorado weekend in October.
Kati and Robby grew up in the world of rodeo.
“I was raised in Wyoming and competed in a lot of events growing up,” said Kati. “I did goat tying, pole bending, breakaway and team (calf) roping, and I was a barrel racing competitor.”
Robby was raised in Laton, California, in a family of bull riders.
“My grandfather was a stock contractor, and would travel around the country where there were rodeos, and I would go with him,” he said. “I was raised in rodeo and was a bull rider for about 15 years, from the time I was a sophomore in high school until I was 30 years old. Because I grew up surrounded by bull riders, I just assumed that’s what everyone did.”
As he reflects back on his bull riding days, Robby says he’s at a stage in his life where he prefers watching the sport, rather than competing.
“You’ve got to really love bull riding to do it,” he lamented. “Now that I’m older and have a family, I look at the sport and think, ‘Who does this?’ There’s nothing logical about it. I enjoy watching it, and it’s great watching this generation of bull riders come up. They’re all really good.”
Robby attended New Mexico State University on a bull riding scholarship, which is where he and Kati met. They were married in 2010 and moved to Arizona, making their home in McNeal where they are raising a family of three children.
“The last rodeo my wife and I entered was the 2016 Benson Butterfield Rodeo, and both of us won our events,” Robby said. “Kati won the barrel racing and I won the bull riding, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. With three kids, I decided it was time to let the other guys ride bulls.”
Robby has professional contacts that he uses for the shows that he and Kati organize.
“They’re like family to me,” he said. “When Kati and I decided to hold that first bull riding event in Tombstone, I was able to get Ted Dwyer, a longtime rodeo announcer and someone I grew up with.”
Donnie Landis, a high-profile rodeo clown who has entertained crowds at the National Finals Rodeo — an event Robby refers to as “the Super Bowl of professional rodeo” — is another big name the Jundts were able to bring to Tombstone for their inaugural event.
“Ted (Dwyer) and Donnie (Landis) work really well together and do a great job of keeping the crowd entertained.” Robby said.
The Jundts plan to use Helldorado weekend as an annual main event, but also hold monthly bull riding competitions and other activities at the Shoot Out Arena.
“We use James Horcasitas, another professional announcer from Las Cruces, for our winter shows,” Robby said. Like Ted Dwyer, he does a great job of keeping the crowd entertained.”
The Jundts limit their competitors to 25 or 30 in order to keep the competitions around two hours.
“We’ve had positive feedback about our shows, and that’s what this is all about,” Robby said. “We love doing this, we grew up around it, and we know the people we hire personally. The rodeo family is tight, and we know we can count on them to put on a great show. So, come on over to the Shoot-Out Arena for an exciting two hours of bull riding action.”