State Fair to host ranch rodeo finals
Douglas – This year’s Wyoming State Fair ranch rodeo competition will include heightened stakes, as the State Fair will now be the state finals for ranch rodeos held in the Cowboy State that choose to be affiliated.
In addition, the State Fair has partnered with the Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) in Billings, Mont. and will send the top two Wyoming ranch rodeo teams to the finals in Montana in October 2010.
Although the event is still in the process of affiliating Wyoming’s local ranch rodeos, Ranch Rodeo Coordinator Larry Bentley of Thermopolis says a possible 10 are already on board, out of a goal of 12 qualifying rodeos.
“We’re getting close to that, and there’s some real interest in the state,” says Bentley, saying those already affiliated include four events in the Big Horn Basin, as well as one, and possibly two in Crook County. They’re in the process of contacting events in Lusk, Glendo, Glenrock and Newcastle.
“We’re working on it, and it’s coming together well,” says Bentley, adding the whole thing was kind of an accident. “It’s something I’ve been working on for a while, but on a much smaller basis.”
Bentley has been involved in the Thermopolis ranch rodeo on a contestant or organization basis for the last 20 years.
“I’ve wanted to put together a regional finals for a while, but didn’t have the vehicle to get it done,” he says. “I was up at the NILE last fall and talked to them about it a little bit, and we got to talking and this thing fell together last spring. One day it all came together.”
Wyoming State Fair Director James Goodrich is also involved in putting the event together, and he explains that those interested need to affiliate with the State Fair and adhere to a uniform set of guidelines to ensure consistency through the qualifying process.
Goodrich explains there are five events that will be held at the state finals – the same five held at the NILE finals – and that local ranch rodeos in the state need to include at least three of them in their competitions. The five events from which to choose are ranch bronc riding, wild cow milking, team trailering, team doctoring and team branding.
“We did that so if the local rodeo has some traditional events, they can still hold them and we’re not forcing them to include five new events,” says Goodrich.
Of the cost of affiliation, Goodrich says there are no up-front membership fees, just a $10-per-contestant fee included in the State Fair Ranch Rodeo entry fee for the winning team that qualifies and chooses to compete at the state level.
Goodrich says State Fair Ranch Rodeo prize winnings are yet to be determined, but he does know the purse will be 80 percent of entry fees given back in a jackpot. The stock contractor and other producer positions are also yet to be determined.
Bentley says he and Goodrich are considering bringing a judge from Montana to oversee the finals, to avoid conflicts of interest, and one of the judges at the Montana finals will be from Wyoming. “The finals will pay to four places, and jackets will be given to the winning team and vests given to the reserve team, with cash awards going down through fourth place,” explains Goodrich, adding there will also be Top Hand and Top Horse awards.
For local ranch rodeos that may be interested in participating in the state finals, Goodrich says the cutoff for qualification in the 2010 state finals event is local events held more than six days prior to the finals, which are Aug. 15.
Affiliated rodeos must be held in the state of Wyoming, and all team members must be legal residents of Wyoming. Also, qualifying rodeos must have been held within the 2010 calendar year for this first event. If the event has already come and gone this year, the rodeo can qualify as long as they held three of the five qualifying events.
“We’re working on it still, but James and I are both pleased with how it’s coming together,” says Bentley. “If anyone’s interested, they can contact me and I’ll send them a copy of the rules and talk about the qualifications and how this will work.”
“I think this is an up and coming thing,” adds Bentley, speaking of local-level ranch rodeos. “Even though people love to go see professional cowboys compete in PRCA rodeos, we don’t have many of those rodeos because we don’t have the purses for the big names. Ranch rodeo has local teams, and now they have a chance to go to a finals, and our top two teams in the state get to go compete in Montana at the NILE, and to me that’s pretty exciting.”