BURBANK — For the Thorsell family, bull riding is in their blood, and it has been ever since Dennis Thorsell got his first job at 8 years old walking ponies and cleaning stalls at the Cleveland Zoo.

Dennis passed away in 2017 and now his wife, Eileen, runs the operation in Burbank known as Buckin’ Ohio.

Each summer, Buckin’ Ohio, located at 8154 Garman Road in Burbank, holds monthly sanctioned bull riding events. This year’s events will be May 26, June 23, July 28, Aug. 18 and Sept. 22. Gates open at 4 p.m. and includes music, shopping, barrel racing and mutton busting prior to the 7 p.m. bull riding contest. For more information, call 330-624-7205 or email Info@buckinohio.com.

Eileen explained how her late husband, Dennis, a "city boy" from Cleveland, worked his way up from walking ponies to owning a 100-acre ranch.

"When he was a kid he worked at the zoo and he subscribed to a horse magazine," said Eileen. "He kept seeing a rancher from Texas, Pine Johnson, on the cover of the magazine. Eventually, he wrote him a letter saying that he would like to come work on his ranch. A few weeks later, he received a letter from Pine (Johnson) and it had a train ticket in it to Texas, so he went. He worked there for about 15 years."

Business and other interests eventually brought Thorsell back to Ohio and, in 1997, he and his wife founded Creekbend Ranch in Burbank specializing in breeding and training professional bucking bulls. Their bulls have appeared in television commercials and various print advertisements.

Bulls are the heart and soul of the Thorsell family.

Their son, Shawn, also helps keep the ranch running. Shawn, who started riding bulls at 12 years old, competed professionally and placed on the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) circuit.

"That was a blast," he said. "We were treated like rock stars."

But after almost 10 years of professional riding, he too returned home to Burbank and founded a riding school to teach others what he has learned while riding full time.

"In Texas, the high schools have rodeo as a sport and, to learn to ride, people from this area would have to go west to attend a bull riding class," Shawn said. "I wanted to start one for people in the area."

Eileen admits that the rodeo wasn’t a part of the plan originally.

"When Shawn was starting out as a bull rider, we purchased some practice bulls and built a small arena," she said. "People started showing up to watch, at first there were just a few onlookers, then there were dozens."

That is when Eileen thought that this could be "a thing." After attending some rodeos as an onlooker, she saw very quickly what works well and what didn’t. She incorporated everything that she felt worked well and came up with a fast-moving rodeo that keeps the audience engaged and excited.

Eileen takes measures to make sure she puts on a quality show for the 3,500 in attendance.

"All of the riders need to have a SEBRA (Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association) Card," she said. "I get a lot of calls asking if people can just sign up and I have to tell them no."

Each event is sanctioned by SEBRA meaning that each entrant is competing for money and an invitation to the yearly finale.

"SEBRA runs about 400 shows around the U.S." Eileen said. "They enter through them and compete here."

There are activities available for families prior to each show including live music, a ranch tour, a general store and, of course, chuckwagon cuisine including BBQ, Texas tenderloin and gyros.

For additional information about Buckin’ Ohio, visit online at www.buckinohio.com.

Reporter Dan Starcher can be reached at 330-287-1626 or dstarcher@the-daily-record.com. He is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WoosterWriter