Broncs at breakfast, lunch and dinner during Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo
If saddle bronc riding is your game, then the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo Rapid City is your destination.
During the nine days of the BHSS and Rodeo Rapid City Jan. 31-Feb.8 , various events, some featuring saddle bronc riding exclusively, some including bronc riding among other events, will take place.
A new attraction, the Wild Ride, takes place Feb. 1. It consists of ranch bronc riding, with the cowboys wearing costumes. Riders will be scored but it’s for fun, too, said Ron Jeffries, general manager of the Central States Fair and producer of the BHSS. “Really, it’s good entertainment. Contestants might come dressed as a firefighter, Santa Claus, it could be anything. It’s designed to be fun for the audience.” Entries will be open to twelve, with the top four riding again in the short round. Purse money is $5,000; a prize will be awarded for the best costume.
Wednesday, Feb. 5 is chock full of bronc riding. The morning kicks off with Broncs for Breakfast, a ranch bronc riding. Spectators can watch 32 riders, with the top eight high scores riding again in the short round. Biscuits and gravy is served, along with live music, a calcutta, and a Bloody Mary bar. Contestants use a stock saddle and can have both hands on the reins. It is co-sanctioned by the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association (WSRRA) and Top Hand Tour with $6,000 in prize money.
The Rodeo Rapid City Saddle Bronc Futurity is held on Wednesday at 10 a.m., with thirty cowboys competing on some of the best horses in the industry. Produced by the Sutton family, two-, three- and four-year-old horses are allowed to enter. Stock contractors put together teams of three horses, which are scored alongside the cowboys. Contractors are paid for their horses’ performance, just like the cowboys are. Bronc futurities are becoming more popular, Steve Sutton said, and most of them take two- and three-year-olds. But because it’s early in the year, Sutton allows the four-year-olds to enter, some of whom might have been selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo the previous year. The futurity offers a different twist for contestants: the top three cowboys, if they are PRCA members, qualify to compete in that night’s Xtreme Bronc Match as wild cards, where entries are limited.
At noon on Wed., Feb. 5, the Sutton family holds its annual bucking horse sale, selling fifty head of ranch-raised horses.
That evening, the Rodeo Rapid City PRCA Xtreme Broncs Match takes place. A relatively new event in pro rodeo, it is bronc riding only, with entries open only to cowboys in the top world standings and in the Badlands Circuit standings. That means fans see the crème de la crème, said Sutton. Last year, “out of the top fifteen in the world, only one didn’t enter,” and that was due to injury, he said. “There were about five or six guys out of the thirty (entered in the Match) who hadn’t been to the NFR.”
The horses’ credentials are just as elite as the cowboys. Sutton has nine different stock contractors bring their best horses, with over half of them having bucked at the WNFR. For the short round last year, all four horses had bucked in the “TV pen,” the tenth round of the 2018 WNFR. “We get the big name cowboys, and that’s why we bring the best bucking horses in.” Thirty cowboys will be allowed to enter; three more who scored the highest in the morning’s futurity will be added.
And there’s plenty more bronc riding, with the 20X High School Rodeo on Feb. 2 and during Rodeo Rapid City PRCA Rodeo, which runs Feb. 1 and 6-8. Last year, the saddle bronc riding alone at Rodeo Rapid City paid out over $15,000, all for 64 seconds of work, between eight cowboys.
South Dakota is a hotbed for saddle bronc riders. Some of the best in the world have come from the state, including world champions such as Earl Thode, Casey Tibbs, Billy Etbauer, Clint Johnson, Tom Reeves and Chad Ferley. “Our kids (in South Dakota) have been getting on broncs since they were little,” Jeffries said. Strong youth rodeo programs such as 4-H rodeo, junior high and high school rodeos help, as does the mentoring that world champions and expert cowboys give to the young ones. “We’re putting a lot of young cowboys into the hopper, and with lots of good mentors around, we’re bound to get a bunch of good cowboys coming out the other end.”
Jeffries likens it to other sports. “It’s not any different than baseball,” he said. “If your kids are exposed to it at a young age, and are working at becoming a pro, and you have pro athletes who come back and help out, you’re going to be a better pitcher or batter. In South Dakota, rodeo has that kind of support.
“South Dakota is not new to the rodeo business.”
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