Burke Stampede Rodeo kickn’ up their heels
2009 marks the 20th year of rodeo in the small Midwestern community of Burke, SD. Burke, located in south central South Dakota, just 25 miles from the mighty Missouri River and still “West River” is home to just at 600 people. But, every year at rodeo time (always the second full week-end in July) the town comes alive as some 6,000 people drift in to spectate or compete in the “Rodeo that Rocks”! The event has become such a draw that home-town folk and past residents actually plan reunions and vacations around the Rodeo so their out-of- town relatives and friends can be on hand to experience the Stampede.
The Stampede Rodeo was born of the dream of local Burke druggist Jerry Hutchison who gathered donations of money, time, and labor to build the beautiful all-steel facility on the edge of Burke South Dakota. “Hutch’s” original intent was to make the arena a great playground and wonderful place to raise kids, and that it is, as the arena is home to a summer series of kid’s play days, a Junior Rodeo in August and a High School Rodeo in May. What kid doesn’t grow up dreamin’ of being a cowboy or cowgirl? The Stampede Rodeo is a way to see that dream come alive right before the town folk’s eyes. The community likes to refer to “Hutch’s” dream as their very own “Field of Dreams”… “You build it and they will come.”
And come they did! Over the past 20 years the Burke Stampede Rodeo has evolved into the largest amateur rodeo ( both in pay-out and entries) in the Midwest. A win at the Stampede will actually carry cowboys and cowgirls to their respective association finals. The Stampede is sanctioned by the Mid-States, Northwest Ranch Cowboys, Nebraska State, and South Dakota Rodeo Associations. Many cowboys and cowgirls testify that if they crack it out for only one rodeo a year, it most definitely must be the Stampede. There is just something magical about competing in front of the great crowds, and at such a well run rodeo where every contestant is guaranteed the opportunity of a fair chance at the big money.
The big money is put up by some very dedicated individuals and businesses, most of whom have been sponsors every one of the past 20 years. The rodeo committee works hard to make sure that those sponsors get lots of bang for their bucks on Stampede Week-end. This year two new sponsors have come on board. One will be a special buckle presentation in memory of Gloria Stevicks Connot. Gloria never missed the Stampede and loved the rodeo atmosphere. This will be an on-going award sponsored by her family in memory of Gloria’s love for the “cowboy way.”
Another is an all-around buckle going to the cowboy or cowgirl who wins the most money in two or more events. Local State Farm Insurance Agent and rodeo cowboy himself, Tom Eliason, approached the committee about the award saying that an Eliason had competed in the Stampede every one of the last 19 years and this year would be no exception. Eliason’s son Blake would actually have been the recipient of such a buckle had it been offered about five years ago when he rode away with the big money in the calf roping and the team roping. Both buckles are currently in the design stage at Gist Silversmith’s and will be one of a kind treasures commemorating 20 years of Stampede Rodeo.
Like any small agricultural community, history is flavorful and abundant. The Stampede committee has done re-enactments of historic events and honored old-time residents each year at the rodeo. From the Jack Sully Story to the re-enactment of The Battle of Bonesteel, we like to bring a bit of our history alive each year. Trick Riders, Whip Crackers, Mounted Shooters, Indian Dancers, a Stampede Sweethearts Drill Team, and Clown Antics have all been a part of the color. The past several years spectators have been treated to a ride onto the rodeo grounds aboard a flatbed pulled by teams of Belgian Draft Mules and beautiful matched horses.
Membership dues of $5 per year per family earn you a spot on the roster of the Burke Riding Club. Riding Club members are the Burke Stampede Rodeo Committee. Members joke that it is actually a pay to work club but come rodeo time, everyone shows up and does their part. There are one or two committee members who actually feel a bit down when the rodeo leaves town. There is just something rewarding about bringing all those people to this little town and it seems such a part of who the community is. Our community lives by the cowboy code and work ethic. In a lot of ways, putting on the rodeo has gotten easier over the years as everyone just steps up and does what they have always done. All work is volunteer, and community members come out of the woodwork to help at rodeo time.
Downtown businesses decorate store fronts, hang street banners and run rodeo specials. A local grocery store runs a rodeo week-end sidewalk produce sale. A local group, the Missouri River Archers, mark off the parking lot and park cars all week-end. Community members become ticket takers and concession stand workers. Local 4-H clubs keep the rodeo grounds picked up after each rodeo performance. Committee members though small in number, are big in heart, dedication and ideas for making the next Stampede the best ever!
2009 should be no exception! The Stampede Committee is fixin’ to make the 20th year a memorable one. They are gonna’ start with a FREE to everybody authentic CHUCKWAGON FEED on Thursday night July 9th on the rodeo grounds. Along with the feed, there will be a chuckwagon cook-off. The committee is presently seeking entrants in the cook-off. Entrants need only bring their cook-off entry and fixin’s. The committee will supply the chuckwagon and the campfire. They will also supply the evening’s entertainment in the form of the first ever Burke Stampede Rodeo Idol contest. The committee is looking for Idol talent.
As a Stampede Idol entrant, you may perform at the preliminaries on Thursday night where three finalists will be chosen. Those three finalists will go on to perform each night of the Stampede Friday, Saturday, and Sunday July 10th, 11th, and 12th. The winner will be selected by Stampede Fans and will receive $500 in prize money as well as the honor of being the first ever Burke Stampede Rodeo Idol. Talent may be of your choosing… the Stampede committee reserves the right to decide if it is talent and talent of Stampede quality.
If you have culinary skills around the campfire or if you can sing, dance, recite poetry or some kind of talent please call 605-775-2294 (Monday-Friday daytime) or 605-775-2158 (nighttime) and enter up. The Burke Stampede is looking for you to help them celebrate 20 years of “Rockin’ Rodeo” in Burke.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News