'I definitely know I'm in for a wild ride': Son hopes to buck odds in rodeo to help his father, others

  • Justin Burau, right, with his dad Wally, left, and Blackhawks national anthem singer Jim Cornelius.

    Justin Burau, right, with his dad Wally, left, and Blackhawks national anthem singer Jim Cornelius. Courtesy of Justin Burau

  • Justin Burau will be hoping for slightly different results than this rider experienced when he climbs aboard his first bucking bronco Saturday at the DuPage County Fair in Wheaton. Burau, of Arlington Heights, is riding to help raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association.

    Justin Burau will be hoping for slightly different results than this rider experienced when he climbs aboard his first bucking bronco Saturday at the DuPage County Fair in Wheaton. Burau, of Arlington Heights, is riding to help raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association. Daily Herald file photo

  • "I know the risks," Justin Burau says as he prepares to ride his first bucking bronco for charity. "I definitely know I'm in for a wild ride."

    "I know the risks," Justin Burau says as he prepares to ride his first bucking bronco for charity. "I definitely know I'm in for a wild ride." Daily Herald file photo

 
By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 7/19/2019 5:00 PM

This literally is Justin Burau's first rodeo.

Oh, sure, the Wheaton native's been to many rodeo shows in the past, watching riders, including his father, handle a bucking bronco.

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But Saturday, July 27, will be the first time the 33-year-old Arlington Heights real estate professional will saddle up for The Ride at the DuPage County Fair.

"I know the risks," Burau said. "I definitely know I'm in for a wild ride."

Self-described as being in "decent shape," at 5 feet, 7inches and 185 pounds, Burau said he hopes to go a full eight seconds before being thrown from his precarious perch.

Burau said he's taking on the challenge to help raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association, a nonprofit group dedicated to research, education and support efforts. Donations are being accepted at www.grabowskiscramble.com/theride.

"Back in 2015, my best friend was diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor. He passed away a month shy of his 31st birthday," he said.

Burau launched the Ryan J. Hanrahan Memorial Foundation in his friend's honor, donating proceeds to the ABTA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Then his father, Wally, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in April 2017 after having a different type of brain tumor in 2000 and dealing with a bout of colon cancer in 2010.

"My dad is currently fighting it right now. His tumor was able to be removed," Burau said. "With glioblastoma brain tumors, we take things day by day. I'm hoping he can be there on the 27th."

Roughly 12,000 people get diagnosed with the disease every year, he said.

"There are so many people out there, they don't have anyone advocating for them," he said.

The idea to do a rodeo ride for charity came from his childhood. His father met his mother while on the rodeo circuit in Iowa. The couple eventually settled in Wheaton.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Growing up, we would always go and watch. My dad would ride at the DuPage County Fair," he said.

"Rodeo has been a big part of the fair," said Jim McGuire, executive manager of the DuPage County Fair Association. "Justin's dad did ride in the rodeo here. It's a cool opportunity for him to share something different with his dad."

McGuire said the traditional rodeo show will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday and likely will include saddle bronc riding, roping and barrel racing.

"It's a professional rodeo, so it is for points on a circuit," he said.

The county fair begins Wednesday, July 24, and runs through Sunday, July 28, at the DuPage County Fairgrounds on Manchester Road in Wheaton.

McGuire said the fair is celebrating its 65th year at the Manchester Road location.

This year's celebration will include livestock and horticulture competitions and displays.

"It's to provide education about agriculture and the importance of agriculture in the world," McGuire said. "We definitely have deep agricultural roots."

Entertainment will include children's shows, dance performances, a talent contest, live music and a carnival midway with rides.

There also will be a watermelon-eating contest, a pie-eating contest and a 7 p.m. Saturday livestock auction.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, the fair will host a demolition derby.

A variety of food concessions and vendors will be available, along with a craft beer tent.

McGuire said this year's rodeo may be the first to feature a novice bronco rider.

As such, Burau said he will be wearing a helmet and a protective vest.

"We checked everything out and brought it to our board here and we decided we would support (Burau's) efforts to go out and have some fun with his dad," McGuire said.

"I know they're not going to put him on the meanest, the toughest, the baddest. Everybody's got to have a first ride somewhere along the line."

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