South Dakota 4-H Rodeo Finals Proposed Rule Changes
Several rule change proposals for the South Dakota 4-H Rodeo Finals have sparked conversation among parents and participants. All rule change proposals had to be submitted prior to the final performance of the Finals, and will be discussed and voted upon on Sun. Oct. 23 in Fort Pierre at an open-door meeting.
One of the central issues prompting proposals is the substantial number of contestants in the Finals, held the third week of August. “It’s a great thing that the rodeo is increasing in numbers,” says former President and current board member, Tyson Paxton. The growth of the association is not to be lamented, but rather the length of performances, strain on contestants and volunteers, and limited space and time frame. “We’re just trying to make the finals more manageable,” he says.
In 2022, there were 670 kids aged 8-18 that competed in the South Dakota 4-H Finals in Fort Pierre, over four performances held in three days. Each competed in two rounds, and many qualified in more than one event. For comparison, the South Dakota High School Finals last June at the same location consisted of 340 contestants in five regular performances and a short round over five days.
The concerns with the size of the Finals range from safety to facility accommodations to volunteer help. Young and perhaps inexperienced riders are a safety concern, especially with an increasing number of horses, people, and vehicle traffic at the rodeo grounds. The lengthy days are also troubling, when youth may be competing from 9 a.m. to later than 10 p.m in Saturday’s performances. Board member Don Bergeson says that performances last nearly five hours.
In addition, stock contractors are required to bring half enough cattle, so if there are 200 breakaway ropers, 100 calves are required per round. Finals secretary Kim Larson says that when the 4-H Finals began decades ago, there were fewer people and smaller pickups and trailers. Now, rig sizes are increasing and parking space is becoming limited. Furthermore, stalls are an issue. Larson says, “Just because there are 600 contestants doesn’t mean there are only 600 horses. You could have 1,000 horses.” Other facilities to host the Finals have been discussed, but few places in South Dakota can accommodate their current numbers.
Rule change proposals to manage the size of the Finals include:
Going to a point system similar to High School Rodeo. Points will not be carried into state or considered in the average. Finalists will start with a clean slate.
A contestant must place two times in the top four at any 4-H Regional Rodeo.
A contestant must place in the top three (3) at any Regional Rodeo.
A contestant must place two times in the top 5 to qualify to the Finals.
Eliminate the Girls Flag Race and Junior Boys Flag Race […]
Two years ago, the Junior Girls Flag Race was added alongside the Junior Boys Bareback Steer Riding to keep 4-H Rodeo in compliance with Title IV. To remove one event from the Boys, the board would also need to remove one from the Girls, and vice versa. Paxton says that despite the claims of the flag race preparing boys for steer wrestling, there is little skill being taught by the event which would prepare boys or girls for senior or professional events later in their career, and eliminating the event could be a part of the solution.
Shawn Wik, the parent of one senior boy and one junior girl, opposes limiting the opportunity for kids to qualify to the Finals. “There’s other facilities that can handle that many people, if that’s the main issue. We don’t think it’s right to take away some of these young kids qualifying. Nobody has two good weekends in a row when you’re a junior. Why take away kids’ chances to make it? It’s a big thing for kids to go to the Finals. Some of them don’t get to go every year. Why take away their chances?” he says. He and other involved parents have suggested Rapid City and Huron as alternate locations, which are capable of stalling and parking larger numbers.
A date change proposal to move the Finals to the second weekend of August has also prompted discussion. Setting a date has always been difficult for the 4-H Rodeo Finals board, and their decision is usually balanced on fall sports, beginning college, and county fairs. When the Finals was moved up one week in years past to avoid conflicting with high school football, schools began football a week earlier. Moving to the second weekend of August may conflict with 4-H and county fairs, which would place one 4-H event in opposition to another.
Additional rule change proposals include:
Eliminate the Trade-Out Rule […]
Require a barrier at every qualifying regional rodeo.
To be an approved qualifying Regional Rodeo, you must use the state approved Software Program.
Due to the number of entries in Junior Cattle Riding and Junior Bareback Steer Riding, all cattle in these events will be chute drawn […]
The board members welcome all to the meeting to voice concerns and contribute new ideas in relation to the rule change proposals. Bergeson says, “Nobody is trying to take anything away. We’re just trying to do it in the safest, most feasible manner for everybody.” Attendance at the meeting is highly encouraged, as well as volunteer help at the Finals rodeo. “4-H rodeo is an awesome thing and a great way to get young kids started. I’d hate for it to be a big fight. We just want to get people together to get it figured out,” says Larson.
The upcoming 4-H Rodeo board meeting is Oct. 23, 2022 at the Casey Tibbs Center, Fort Pierre at 1 p.m. Central Time.