Rowena Nelson serves as rodeo secretary for the Y’s Men’s Rodeo

Minot, N.D. (September 16, 2019) –The fans at the Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo never see her, but without her, there would be no rodeo.

Minot resident Rowena Nelson will serve as the secretary of the Y’s Men’s Rodeo October 4-6.

Her job entails collecting entry fees from the contestants, helping with the selection of animals each cowboy will compete on, and organizing, printing and disseminating paperwork for the judges, announcer, stock contractors, committee, and media.

It’s an intense few days for the rodeo secretary, but Nelson has plenty of experience at it.

She grew up the daughter of Lona Mae and the late Calvin Nelson on the family ranch near Kenmare. The family had bucking horses they took to rodeos, and Nelson would help her dad with the paperwork for the horses.

After graduation from National College in Rapid City, she went to work for Dr. Martin, DVM in Newell, S.D. Nelson helped with team ropings put on by Dr. Martin’s sister and her husband.

Then Dr. Martin suggested that Nelson look into secretarying the Cody (Wyo.) Night Rodeo, so she did, after attending the PRCA secretary school.

It was 1989, and Dr. Martin gave her the summer off to work the series of rodeos in Cody. She went back to the vet clinic till December, when she was hired by more rodeos.

In the last thirty years, Nelson has worked for several stock contractors. Ike and Roberta Sankey, Joliet, Mont., were the first to hire her. She also works for Bailey Pro Rodeo, based out of Karlsruhe, N.D. Bloodlines from her dad’s bucking horses run through some of the Bailey horses today.

The Y’s Men’s Rodeo payout will be over $200,000, and it’s Nelson’s job to make sure that everything is correct: the draw for the bucking horses, bulls, steers and calves; that the scores and times are recorded correctly, and that the winning cowboys are paid the correct amount.

“The devil is in the details,” Nelson said. There’s no room for errors. If errors occur, she’s the first to fix them. “Mistakes happen, and people catch them, and we fix them.”

As the center of the rodeo office, she has to be able to handle requests from a variety of people in a short amount of time. “You have to be able to multi-task,” she said. She anticipates the information that the stock contractor, or announcer, for example, might need, and has it ready. “For me, it’s making mental notes of what they have asked for in the past.”

Nelson is in the rodeo office three to four hours before the performance starts, organizing information and paperwork for the contestants, judges, timers, announcers, and more. Then after the rodeo, she balances her books, provides results for the media, and works with the judges as they “draw” livestock (randomly choose the animals for each contestant for the next performance).

The circuit finals is a bit different than a regular rodeo, Nelson said. The same one-hundred-plus contestants compete during each of the four performances, unlike a rodeo where each contestant competes once. And the roughstock draw: when the horses or bulls are chosen for each cowboy in the bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding, is done on sight. The printer can’t print the program till the draw is done, so that means late work for Nelson, getting that information to the printer.

Nelson’s sister, LouAnn Blain, has helped as her assistant the last few years. The PRCA has a computer program designed specifically for rodeo secretaries, but Nelson has Blain record the work in an Excel spreadsheet, just to make sure the stats are correct. “Excel is a wonderful thing,” she said.

Nelson, who works for a CPA in Minot, has served as secretary or assistant secretary for at least ten circuit finals, not only the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, which is hosted by the Y’s Men’s Rodeo, but also for the Mountain States Circuit Finals, the Wilderness Circuit Finals, and the Montana Circuit Finals.

Her favorite part of the job is making sure her part of the rodeo is well-executed. “Being able to leave the rodeo office, with the books balanced, and knowing that everything went as smoothly as it can,” she said, is what pleases her.

And even though the fans never see her, they can thank her, in part, when the rodeo goes without a hiccup.

The 65th annual Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo takes place October 4-6 at the State Fair Center in Minot. Tickets range in price from $8 to $33 and are available online at, and, after Sept. 17, at the Minot Family YMCA from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays.

The rodeo begins at 7 pm on October 4-5, at 1 pm on October 5, and at 1:30 pm on October 6.

For more information, visit the website.

–Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo