Celebrating a century: Belle Fourche’s Black Hills Roundup will honor those who rode before
Cowboy poet Baxter Black’s iconic words “There’s a hundred years of history” ring true for the Black Hills Roundup this year. The Roundup will celebrate its 100th year of rodeo and western action over the 4th of July holiday.
Perhaps even sweeter than celebrating a century’s worth of rodeo action is the fact that the Roundup is the reigning Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association “Medium Rodeo of the Year.” The rodeo and committee were inducted into the PRCA Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs last August for their outstanding production. This year’s Roundup may be the most memorable to date.
The landscape has changed as several upgrades were made to the Roundup Grounds since last year. Most noticeably, the wooden bleachers were replaced. “It was a pretty big controversy with tearing the old ones down, but it was time. I made the call and worked with the city and got them built. Huge project, but kind of state of the art now,” says committee chairman, Clay Crago. As a way to preserve the wood from the old bleachers, the committee constructed a building for merchandise and memorabilia. “It’s a pretty cool dang building. We’ll put a new log entry way in there to kind of give it a 100 year-old rodeo look. Everything is completely ADA accessible.”
The Roundup has always given a nod to Belle Fourche’s western heritage with events like the ranch rodeo, pro rodeo performances, and the cattle drive through town. Crago says the committee will give an especially big tip of the hat to history this year. “We’ve got some old school openings planned. It’s how you might have done it 100 years ago. We’re going to blindfold a bronc, kind of like how they might have done Tipperary back in the day.”
Before bucking chutes were used in roughstock events, horses were “snubbed up,” or held by a mounted cowboy, until the bronc rider could climb aboard. Then the bucking horse was turned loose the wild ride began. This type of bronc riding will open each evening performance throughout the week as a special tribute to the cowboys and horses from a century ago. Tipperary was the famous bucking horse raised near Buffalo, South Dakota. He was unridden until Yakima Canutt covered him in 1920, and then a second time in 1921 at the Black Hills Roundup.
The entertainer ‘Shotgun’ Rodney Gaston will be performing his famous chuckwagon races throughout the week during the rodeo performances. Additionally, the One Armed Bandit & Company will make an appearance in the form of his daughter, Amanda Payne, to showcase her horsemanship and stunts with horses and mules.
Crago’s father, Cliff, and sons Chet and Cooper, will head up the cattle drive on July 2nd. This has been a regular spectacle for ten years in Belle Fourche, but this year will be extraordinary. “They’re bringing 140 head of horned cattle,” says Crago. The cowboys will walk the herd through town and end at the Roundup Grounds. The herd will be accompanied by several chuckwagons owned by Dennis Lindskov. “So we’re coming to Belle Fourche with the whole trail drive,” says Crago. “We’ll sort off what we need for the ranch rodeo that night.” According to him, the ranch rodeo is entered by tri-state area cowboys and enjoyed by local fans. Five exciting events determine the champion team, and awards for “Top Horse” and “Top Hand” are given.
The morning of July 3rd will hold steer roping action and the first PRCA rodeo performance will kick off in the evening. Many top rodeo athletes are regular contestants at the Roundup. “I’m sure you can expect them to be there again, from Trevor Brazile to Wade Sundell,” says Crago.
Even the Fourth of July parade will be larger than usual, with 180 entries. “It’ll be big. It starts off with the B1 flyover, so that’s always cool,” says Crago. To honor the past chairmen of the Black Hills Roundup committee, they will be parade marshalls this year.
Several entertainers will be playing the evening of the 4th. “Dakota Country, which is a local band, they’re going to open it around 6 o’clock, depending on the rodeo,” says Crago. Kenny Feidler, a local singer/songwriter and former rodeo athlete, will play after them. “He’s really getting to make a name for himself and knows his way around the rodeo world,” he says. Finally, the headlining band, American Aquarium, features lead singer BJ Barham of North Carolina, whose songs reflect a small-town upbringing and Southern rock n’ roll influences, will finish the evening’s musical show.