RODEO TOWN: Last Chance Stampede to have over 300 cowboys, cowgirls on hand for this week’s rodeo
Helena, Mont. (July 26, 2021) – Helena becomes Cowboy Central this week, as the 60th edition of the Last Chance Stampede and Fair kicks off on Wednesday.
More than 300 PRCA cowboys and WPRA cowgirls will converge on the city, to compete for over $70,000 in prize money.
Steer wrestler Clayton Hass loves Helena. Three times he’s left with a rodeo title: the all-around in 2017 (competing in steer wrestling and team roping) and the steer wrestling titles in 2018-2019.
The Weatherford, Texas man says he’s fortunate when he comes to Helena. “I guess sometimes you have rodeos you seem to have luck at, and that’s been one of the ones I have.”
A four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (Wrangler NFR) qualifier, he’ll ride his fourteen-year-old gelding named Benz, the same horse he rode at the Stampede in 2018 and 2019. Hass’ traveling partners, Dakota Eldridge, Will Lummus and occasionally Ty Erickson will also ride the dark dun. “It’s dang sure nice to have a horse like him underneath us, for sure,” Hass said.
Ranked thirtieth in the world standings, Hass knows he has some ground to make up, to be in the top fifteen at the end of the rodeo season (Sept. 30). But he’s confident. “There’s a lot of rodeo left, that’s for sure.”
Hass will also compete at the Stampede in the team roping, in hopes of securing the coveted all-around title again. The Stampede awards a custom-made 14 karat elk ivory ring to the all-around champ each year, a unique award. “It’s pretty cool,” Hass said, of the ring he won for his all-around win in 2017. “It’s a pretty cool piece of jewelry to have in your collection.”
Before he competes at the Stampede on Saturday night, he and the steer wrestlers in the rig will have been to rodeos in Deadwood, S.D. and Preston, Idaho.
The Stampede’s 2019 barrel racing champion will return to defend her title.
Dona Kay Rule, Minco, Okla., will be back, aboard the two-time AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year, High Valor, “Valor.”
The twelve-year-old gelding has changed Rule’s life; she qualified for the Wrangler NFR in 2019 and 2020, although she didn’t compete in 2020, due to a positive Covid test.
Valor “is very much a gift and very much wonderful,” she said. “He’s as strong as ever. Mentally, he seems to be a little more calm because he knows the routine and doesn’t have too many surprises.”
If Valor ever makes a mistake, it’s usually human error that causes it, Rule said. “He’ll do what I ask him to do. It’s usually me that has an issue. I’m scared to hurt him, so I typically don’t ask him for his heart. If I don’t ask him to go fast, he’ll say, ‘yes, mama,’ and he won’t go fast. If a mistake is made, it’s often just me.”
Rule, who has been married to her husband John for over 40 years, travels by herself; John stays home to ranch and work on his side gig, as a bronze sculptor. Rule’s companion is “Rosie the rodeo dog,” a mini-Aussie shepherd who is “great company,” Rule said. “I can’t get her to drive, but she’s fun to go with.”
Among the 2019 Last Chance Stampede champions, six will return to defend their titles. They include Rule (barrel racing); Hass (steer wrestling); Landon Williams (all-around); Mason Clements (bareback riding); and Shawn Bessette and Ike Folsom (team roping).
The Stampede kicks off on July 29 at 8 pm and runs for three nights, through July 31.
Tickets range in price from $17-$23 for adults and $5-$20 for children. All tickets for the July 29 performance are general admission.
Tickets can be purchased online at LCCFairgrounds.com and at the ticket office during business hours.
For more information, visit the website or call 406.457.8516.
–Last Chance Stampede & Fair
Cowboys and cowgirls from 4 to 18 years old came from Montana, North and South Dakotan Wyoming, gathering in Newcastle, Wyoming to vie for Championship titles in the Weston County Mini Roughstock Rodeo.
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