Half-century habit | TSLN.com

Half-century habit

A bareback rider hangs on for the eight second buzzer at the 2015 Buffalo Bill Rodeo. This year’s rodeo is June 15-18, starting at 8 pm each night. Photo by George Hipple.

Sam Simonson loves his rodeo.

The Mullen, Neb. man has been to a lot of rodeos in his day, from the Cheyenne Frontier Days to the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, to the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

But the one closest to home is his favorite.

Simonson has been to the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte for nearly every year of the last 52 years, starting when he was seventeen and rode a bull at the rodeo.

He got bucked off, but that hasn't stopped him from returning.

He used to come to North Platte for an entire week's worth of NebraskalandDays events, and stay overnight. But he's getting older, he admits, and it's enough to come to the rodeo for several nights, driving home each night.

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The rodeo, which is June 15-18 this year, comes at a good time on the ranch. It's after brandings, but before bulls get turned out to summer pasture.

For Sam, who, with his wife Valerie, has two children, a daughter, Kristin Olson, and a son, Shane, it's a time to get together with his son. Shane lives and works in Kearney and meets his dad in North Platte for a few nights of rodeo. Kristin's daughter, Kinley, who is six, was involved in last year's Miss Rodeo Nebraska Little Cowgirl clinic and style show during NebraskalandDays.

He figures he's missed a few years, here and there, and he doesn't always get to all four performances of the rodeo, but he makes at least two of them each year.

"I enjoy a good rodeo," he says. "It's always been a part of my life."

This year the Buffalo Bill Rodeo will host the rodeo clown, barrelman and entertainer Troy Lerwill. Lerwill jumps a Ram truck and trailer with his motorbike while clowning around with announcers Hadley Barrett and Randy Corley.

Quirt Hunt returns as bullfighter; the Nebraska native grew up near Merna and now lives south of Gordon. Joining him during the bull riding is bullfighter Wacey Munsell, Ulysses, Kan.

This year's Buffalo Bill Rodeo begins at 8 p.m. each night, June 15-18 at the Wild West Arena in North Platte. Tickets range in price from $7 for children ages 12 and under to $20 for adults, and can be purchased online at NebraskalandDays.com, at the NebraskalandDays office at 2801 Charlie Evans Drive (at the Wild West Arena in North Platte), and at the gate. For more information, visit the website or call 308.532.7939. F