Community comes together to support local officer
When William Cleveland and his family entered the arena on Saturday night, the crowd at the Polson Fairgrounds, Inc., applauded and cheered for the Polson policeman.
The Bull-a-rama event was a benefit and tribute to Cleveland, who’s been diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer that’s spread to his lungs, liver and lymph nodes in his back.
Following Cleveland’s four-wheeler was a cadre of Polson Police Officers, Lake County Sheriff Don Bell and some Lake County Deputies.
Brett Payton Fitzpatrick, 20, Valley View, masterminded the bull-a-rama fundraiser for Cleveland, and asked his mom, Elisha, to help him.
“He was so passionate about doing it, I had to help him,” Elisha said.
Payton is good friends with Cleveland’s son Dave and very close to the Cleveland family, who were very supportive when his grandfather died of bone cancer in 2012.
Knowing Will loved bull riding and being a bull rider himself, Payton thought a bull-a-rama would be a great way of bringing the community together to raise money for the Cleveland family and provide an exciting event, too.
The bull riding was a huge success. Parking space was scare at the fairgrounds, lines were long at the concession stand and the beer garden and grandstands were packed with people helping in the only way they knew how.
Cheryl Cross took over the concession stand, removing a huge load from Elisha’s shoulders. She and the volunteers she organized worked in the food booth the entire night.
People bought raffle and 50/50 tickets and browsed silent auction items.
Elisha bought a roll of 2,000 50/50 tickets, but they ran out in half an hour so they had to buy another roll.
The concession stand ran out of food in the first hour, she said.
Thirty bull riders and 10 mini-bull riders entered the bull-a-rama to help Will and to get a chance at the added purse put up by Pepsi of Kalispell and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. Just like on the Professional Bull Riding, Inc., on TV, the bull riders came out in the arena before the event. One difference was that each bull rider carried a long-stemmed flower to give to Terri Cleveland, Will’s wife, and they hugged Will or shook his hand.
Then it was time to ride some bulls, but it was raining cowboys as bulls supplied by stock contractors Hendrickson Bucking Bulls, Pistol Creek Rodeo and Triplett Bucking Bulls pitched ‘em off right and left.
Filthy McNasty, a Pistol Creek bull who’s been to the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, was in the draw, too.
The winner was Seth Fenner, Browning, who scored an 85. Rodeo announcer Brad Narducci referred to Fenner as “the riding sensation from the Blackfeet Nation.”
The event was a success from the fundraising point of view, too.
“We’ve still got money coming in from the silent auction, but as of Saturday night when we finally closed the beer garden down, it was about $35,000 when we got done counting,” Elisha said.
Narducci and Reed Tobel, the announcers, told Elisha the bull-a-rama outdid a lot of the pro rodeos.
“Payton was just completely amazed,” Elisha said. “I think everybody involved is amazed.”
The capacity for the stands is 2,500, and Brian Jones, PFI, told Elisha he thought there were 2,000 there Saturday night.
From the kids working the chutes to the ladies selling beer, everybody worked so hard to support the Cleveland family.
A group of Payton’s and Grey’s friends went to the fairgrounds early Sunday morning and cleaned the grandstands as a surprise for Elisha and Payton.
“There are no words,” Elisha said. “I’m pretty proud of everybody.”